I am a freshman at ECU, and I am a paid undergraduate researcher in the Department of Cell Anatomy and Biology at The Brody School of Medicine. I first learned about this position from an email sent to all of the EC Scholars about research opportunities. In high school, I did not have much exposure to research, so I knew that I definitely wanted the opportunity to work in a research lab in college. In fact, the Brody School of Medicine’s proximity to the ECU campus is one of the reasons I chose to attend ECU — I knew that there were so many professors there conducting fascinating research. When I saw the email about an open position in Dr. Sperry’s lab, I contacted her and asked for an interview. She agreed to the interview and offered me the position later that week, so I have been conducting research in Dr. Sperry’s lab for the past couple of months.
From the short time I have been involved in research thus far, I have already learned that
I immensely enjoy working in the lab. As an undergraduate researcher, Dr. Sperry and
her assistant helped me work around my schedule to find time to come into the lab every
day. I usually work around 10-11 hours per week. The mornings I spend in the lab are
actually my favorite part of the day. I love learning something new each day and
anticipating the work that will lead to an exciting discovery.
Dr. Sperry’s team is mainly studying PPP1R42, a protein she discovered. We are
conducting research on the effects this protein, R42 for short, has on cell functions. R42
is found in lots of different cell types, such as photoreceptor cells and sperm cells, and
plays a role in the regulation of the centrosome. When centrosomes do not function
correctly, it can lead to genetic mutations related to cases of genetic diseases and male
infertility. Dr. Sperry, Rong Wang (Dr. Sperry’s Research Technician), two other
students and I are conducting research in order to discover whether R42 could possibly be
used as a marker for these types of diseases in the long run.
So far, I have mainly been observing the different procedures for the multiple
experiments conducted in our lab. I have also gotten the chance to complete several
experiments on my own here and there, but I will start working on my own experiment
soon. I feel like I have learned so much already, and I am really looking forward to
working alongside Dr. Sperry’s team for the next several years. I have highly enjoyed
learning various research techniques and conducting research on my own as part
of a team.
I truly believe that without the Honors College and the email about the
position, I would never have learned about the opening in Dr. Sperry’s lab. There are
many professors on both ECU’s main campus and the Brody School of Medicine
conducting interesting research, and I encourage any and all undergraduate students to pursue open research positions in order to expand their knowledge base and learn more
about the research process.