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“The High Schooler” in the Blackburn Lab

My name is Shea Hausman. I am a rising high school senior, and I have been working in the Blackburn lab since November. When I tell people that I work in a cancer research lab using zebrafish, I normally get two questions: “Why zebrafish?” and “What can you even do?” The, “Why zebrafish?” question is easy; they’re cheap, optically clear, easy to take care of, and easy to genetically transform. They make great models for T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and other diseases. As for the second question, even as a high schooler, I can do a lot in the lab.

My main project in Dr. Blackburn’s lab is repurposing a panel of FDA-approved phosphatase inhibitors as leukemia treatments. Within this project, I have learned a variety of lab skills. I have microinjected, conducted drug screens, imaged fish using fluorescence microscopy, and learned various other skills. When I first started working at the lab, I was unsure of how independent I could be in a lab setting with a high school education. However, Rachel and Dr. Blackburn have been lovely mentors and have constantly pushed me to learn some very important lessons in science (and life): 1) Do not be afraid to make mistakes, and 2) Learn from your mistakes.

In the lab, with a lot of trial and error, I have gained self efficacy and confidence in my work. I have even presented in two poster sessions, one at the department’s spring retreat and another at the Midwest Zebrafish Conference, where I had the opportunity to learn about all the research being done with zebrafish.

Working in the Blackburn lab has been an amazing experience so far, and I will keep this blog updated with my many adventures!

-Shea Hausman

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