By Lorraine N. Vélez-Torres
In this Q&A-type blog, Lorraine N. Vélez-Torres reflects on her experience as a summer intern in our research lab (The RIPLRT: Respiratory and Immunology Project and Laboratory Research Team), the skills she learned and her new proposed goals that resulted from this internship.
How has the experience and the skills learned during the week with Dr. Rivera-Mariani and the RIPLRT impacted your scientific mind?
The experience and skills learned during the week I worked at RIPLRT was highly enriching. I was very surprised of the great number of things I learned during this week. I had the opportunity to see and worked in every aspect of research at RIPLRT, from project planning to data analysis. I really liked that Dr. Rivera-Mariani was very attentive and he make sure I understand every step of the new techniques I learned. Something that impacted my scientific mind is that Dr. Rivera-Mariani and his lab team are extremely aware of the importance of scientific communication and visibility in social media settings. They make this possible through their lab webpage, Facebook page, Instagram page and LinkedIn. For me, this is very important because by showing what we scientists do to the community we can empower them.
Will you implement these techniques in your future work, and if so how?
I will definitely apply the techniques learned during my short visit at the lab in my future work and life as a scientist. First, I will be using the in-vitro technique called human whole blood Monocyte Activation Test in my research thesis. I planned to use it to measure the immune response that results after exposure of fungal spores. Also, I learned lots of skills about project planning and management that I’m already using in my career as a scientist. These skills include calculations of materials, working hours, budget and possible troubleshooting plans. Something that I learned and liked greatly was that RIPLRT is environment conscious since is a paperless lab. Dr. Rivera-Mariani showed me how to use different apps and programs used in his lab to have everything electronically documented and not rely in paper. This is something I hope to apply in the lab I work back in Puerto Rico.
Is there any non-science related aspect of the experience you found interesting? (travel, communication, working space, etc.)
Yes, something non-science related that I found interesting was that the research team it’s like a family. We celebrated Dr. Rivera-Mariani’s wife birthday at his house and we had a really great time. Hayat and Dr. Rivera-Mariani where the chefs and after eating we played Scattergories (a game in which I’m very bad… haha!). Also, everyone in the lab was very friendly and helpful during my stay at the lab. In terms of the travel, I really enjoyed Miami since its very similar to Puerto Rico (weather and friendly people). Moreover, the community at Larkin University was very welcoming and the working space at the laboratory was comfortable, clean and with all the equipment needed for research.
What are some new goals, professional or personal, that have come forth as a result of this experience?
My new goals are to apply all the rewarding lessons learned during my 1-week internship at RIPLRT in my research thesis and at the lab I work at in Puerto Rico. I plan to teach this technique to my mentor, Dr. Bolaños, and my lab mates. Also, I will be soon writing my research proposal and will include the technique I learned, human whole blood MAT, in my research thesis. Hopefully, the experiments done with this technique will result in one of my firsts scientific publications. One of my future goals, after finishing my PhD, is to pursue a postdoctoral career. This experience was so rewarding, that the lab of Dr. Rivera-Mariani is one of the labs that I’m considering for doing my postdoctoral studies.
How likely are you to participate in a similar experience in the future?
I would love to participate in a similar experience in the future. This is something I recommend doing even at an undergrad level. It’s a very fulfilling experience, you gain knowledge about lab techniques and research panning but also get to know a new place, another university and people that share the same love for research as you do. I didn’t have an opportunity like this as an undergraduate student and I’m really grateful for Dr. Rivera-Mariani’s invitation and for all the help that he and his research team provided. I hope that we keep collaborating in the future!
Who is Lorraine Vélez-Torres?
About the author -- Lorraine Vélez-Torres is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Microbiology and Medical Zoology at the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus. She earned her master’s degree in Public Health with concentration in Epidemiology in 2015, identifying the risk factors affecting the quality of life of residents in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. In 2014 she received a double major in Industrial Microbiology and Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. She’s currently working in her research thesis at the Mycology Laboratory of Dr. Bolaños, studying the effect of Hurricane María in the indoor concentration of fungi and the health outcomes of the habitants. Because Dr. Rivera-Mariani is a member of the thesis committee of Lorraine, she was invited for and completed a one-week training with the RIPLRT to learn the different human-based immunological approaches we implement in environmental health studies.