Abstract: My research in the Tsai lab aimed to characterize the neural pathways involved in maintaining energy homeostasis in mice. Beginning with a neural dysfunction arising from the cerebellum, I then used both chemo- and optogenetic techniques to locally manipulate neuronal activity in the cerebellum. Feeding assays were used to verify the hypothesized pathway and to verify that regions along our proposed circuit play a role in energy homeostasis by mediating energy intake.
"Research is difficult and takes time, passion, and a certain mentality to progress - the Green Fellowship allowed me to explore research in a way that helped me discover and validate my dedication to this field of study. "
What does research mean to you? Research science is one way to understand the world. The ability to conduct research properly is a vital skill in my attempt to understand and convey the mechanisms of, in my case, the brain and how it mediates mental health disease and behavior.I applied to become a Green Fellow to conduct research. I have known of my passion for research and this program was my chance to explore a new area of science. This and the chance to operate full-time in a lab for an entire semester drew me to the Green Fellowship. I’m honestly surprised by the scope of the program and I am glad I had the opportunity to be a Green Fellow. The Green Fellowship provided the opportunity to delve into a subject in which I had no prior experience and allowed me to leave with a working understanding of the work I hope to do in the future. Whether you know that research is for you like I did or you think it could be an option in your future, becoming a Green Fellow will give you a taste of what it means to be a research scientist. I throw my all into this experience and the results impressed me.
Tell us about your journey. From the moment I transferred to UTD in 2015 I wanted to enter the Green Fellowship. I earned good grades, wrote and revised my essays, received recommendation letters and applied to be a 2016 Green Fellow. I didn’t get in. I kept at it, staying involved and asking Green Fellows what I needed to do to be accepted into the program. I became more involved on campus, acquired lab experience and applied again and was accepted into the 2017 cohort. My expectations after all that were met with what I thought the program would be and more. Between the rigor and higher expectations from my supervisor and my commitment and quality of work I was stretched thin. I was held to a higher standard as a research intern at UTSW and I believe I rose to the challenge. Most important, I enjoyed the thrill of research. That’s not to say I was a perfect researcher. I took for granted many aspects of my projects, working hard instead of thinking about what experiments I was running. While I acquired data I found that by the end of the Fellowship I’d only scratched the shallowest level of understanding as to why I was doing what I was doing a particular experiment. My biggest piece of advice would be to ask questions. It helps you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. No matter where you are in your project or how far into the semester it is never stop asking questions.I’m rather plain when it comes to my career path. Since high school I have wanted to become a doctor and study mental health. When I entered my community college and learned of combined MD/PhD programs I knew what I wanted to do as a career. Since then my time has been spent growing as both a clinician and scientist. It takes a lot of work but it’s all worthwhile if it’s what you want to do. That said, the program was everything I needed it to be. It helped broaden my understanding of a new discipline of science and introduced me to presenting my work, and the dedication required to conduct research as a career. The Green Fellowship didn’t open my eyes to my love of research- I already knew what I wanted to do before entering the program. The Green Fellowship did allow me to discover my interest in an entirely new brand of research science and for that I am thankful.
What advice would you give for future Green Fellows? Talk with your mentor and get a clear picture of your project as soon as possible. There are few things more frustrating than getting sidelined to tasks you think you understand only to find out that your understanding is wrong on some detail. Talk to you mentor and lab members. They can help.
If any one element made conducting research in the Green Fellowship difficult it was knowing there were things- experiments, methodologies, ways of thinking- that I didn’t know I didn’t know about. The part of this experience that made up for this, made up for days of pouring over papers, staying late to collect data, and even wondering if research is right for me turned out to be the thing that put me off the most; finding out that there were concepts and ways to approach science I didn’t know I didn’t know about. Every ounce of information and experience I took from the Fellowship allowed the opportunity to ask questions and then ask questions about how I came to those questions. Research is difficult and takes time, passion, and a certain mentality to progress- the Green Fellowship allowed me to explore research in a way that helped me discover and validate my dedication to this field of study.