My name is Kouree Chesser and I recently completed a 10 week research experience in Dr. Blackburn’s lab. This opportunity was made possible through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU). Prior to joining the Blackburn lab, I had no previous research experience, and I am actually studying chemical engineering, not biochemistry. Right from day 1, I was able to start making contributions in the lab. I mainly worked alongside Kristin O’Leary, another undergraduate student in the lab, who was great in teaching me the ropes of how things worked in the lab, however everyone in the lab was wonderful and welcoming.
Dr. Blackburn also had me on my own project, which I found to be quite challenging at first. Personally I am an introverted and reserved person, so I was a little slow at reaching out to the other lab members to ask questions, however when I did, I found that they were all really willing to help me! My summer project was to look at protein tyrosine phosphatases as potential drug targets in the treatment of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Over the 10-week span, I learned a variety of lab skills including strengthening my ability to look and interpolate large amounts of data, maintain a lab notebook, design CRISPRs, amplify and purify DNA samples, gel electrophoresis, Western blots, transformations and transfections with bacterial cells, and infections with known leukemia cell lines.
As the summer progressed, I also found my self-confidence improving as I learned more lab techniques and read more and more about the project I was working on. This is by far the best learning experience I have been a part of. Even though I was only at UK for 10 weeks, I made so many connections with other research scientists, so this was the beginning of my networking experience as well. So, if you are reading this and are considering joining the Blackburn lab, either through the REU program or as a UK student, I have no doubts that your learning experience will be just as awesome as mine! I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Blackburn and her lab.