- by Joseph Nettles -

Joseph Nettles

I spent my summer interning at Duke University as a visiting undergraduate scholar, made affordable by a Naz SPARK Grant. As a biochemistry major, this internship confirmed what I want to do after graduation. It also helped me beyond the lab, too.

Daily activities
At the beginning of my internship, my daily activities focused on safety training and learning the skills I’d need to do research for the summer. Once I completed training, my days were primarily full of running experiments to investigate the effects of Bisphenol A (BPA) on cells. For any given experiment, I would grow my cells (human liver cells), expose the cells to various treatments (typically a BPA solution, plastic with BPA, or a Dimethylsulfoxide solution), let the cells grow for a few days while being exposed, and then analyze the growth and gene expression of the cells. In addition, I had to troubleshoot and improve my experiments as I went because there were many issues at the start. I also worked on making presentations of my research as it developed to show coworkers my progress.

What I’ve learned
Through this internship, I developed many research skills I did not have before this summer. I am proficient in cell culture techniques, pipetting incredibly small volumes, using an Incucyte system, and doing quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Furthermore, because I had to move down to Durham to do this internship, I learned how to meal prep and shop for myself, use public transportation, and overall become more independent.

What I enjoyed
This internship was an amazing experience for me. I have been planning on going into research after I graduate, so this was a way for me to find out that I enjoy working in this field. My work this summer was challenging and engaging. I liked that it wasn’t the same thing day after day, as my work grew and changed as time went on. Another aspect I enjoyed is that I got to see how expansive the field of research is. There was a huge amount of research going on at Duke and now I’m more excited to go into this field in the future.

How this has prepared me
After I finish my time at Nazareth, I intend to go to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. Once I’ve finished my education, I plan to go into the field of research in some way. This internship gave me the skills that I will continue to use as I pursue my goals. Furthermore, having done research at Duke has bolstered my resume in a way that will help me to achieve my goals in the future.

Why my research matters
This research matters because of the prevalent use of plastic in today’s society. BPA is a plastic additive, which means it is used to give plastic certain qualities. Many plastic additives adversely affect the body, some even cancerous. The goal of my research over the summer was to prove that you could increase the amount of BPA in a plastic sample and see an impact on the cells. If my research this summer was successful, more research could be done at Duke on more complex mixtures and their impacts on the body because plastics rarely have a single additive in them.