Originally published October 4, 2016
By Ana Dominguez
Senior, Electrical Engineering
This summer, I worked in the Weiss Lab for Synthetic Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP). I was under the supervision of faculty mentor Ron Weiss, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering at MIT and director of its Synthetic Biology Center, and research adviser Sebastian Palacios.
The lab focuses on constructing and analyzing synthetic gene networks to elucidate their regulatory functions within cells and utilize them in a wide range of newly programmed cell applications. I specifically worked on the development of miRNA sensors in order to improve the overall differentiation process of human induced pluripotent cells and aid in the development of therapies to regenerate and reconstruct the nervous system.
Two of the biggest challenges I faced working here were understanding the terminology of the project and getting comfortable doing cell culture, which is essential for testing the circuits. However, with some practice and determination, I was able to complete the required tasks successfully.
The MIT Summer Research program seeks to promote the value of graduate education, improve the research enterprise through increased diversity, and prepare and recruit the best and brightest for graduate education at MIT. It also is characterized as a holistic program. We attended workshops that enlightened us about the application process for graduate school and that helped me in my professional development.
Moreover, we also had the opportunity to do community service in the Boston area and enjoyed the city through the boat trips and activities they provided. I was able to meet 43 other brilliant minds who accompanied me through this whole process and that now form part of my professional network and the MSRP family. Thanks to this program, I now feel more confident in my research skills and my ability to compete successfully for a doctoral degree.