Meet one of this week's featured visitors, Rebecca Lea of the Francis Crick Institute (United Kingdom). The PhD student, who is just coming towards the end of her first year, is on campus for the annual Mouse Development, Stem Cells & Cancer course. She is a member of the Early Mammalian Development and Stem Cell Laboratory led by Kathy Niakan. Read on for more on the CSHL first-timer's experience in the course and advice for those who wish to attend it next year.
What are your research interests? What are you working on?
Our lab wants to understand the molecular pathways underlying early pre-implantation mammalian development, specifically how a ball of cells with unlimited potential for forming a complete organism decides its fate. To do this, we make use of cutting-edge techniques including CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, RNA-seq and fluorescent imaging in embryos and embryonic stem cells.
Was there something specific about the Mouse Development, Stem Cells and Cancer course that drew you to apply?
It was my supervisor who first drew my attention towards this course, and I think I was hooked on the idea of applying as soon as she told me that she wished she had applied when she was a graduate student in the US – if it was a dream for her, an amazingly successful PI and a real role model for me, then I absolutely had to give it a shot! Aside from that, the course offered me an amazing opportunity to get a grounding in the area of developmental biology, and I was really excited to learn the technique of microinjecting small molecules into mouse zygotes, which we do often in my lab.
What is your key takeaway from the Mouse course?
I think the main thing that I have learnt in the last week is that I am capable of so much more than I ever realized! Between the complex lab techniques we have been learning and the intensity of the overall academic schedule, I feel like I’ve already come a long way in both expanding my technical skillset and improving my ability to effectively manage my time. Both of these aspects will be a huge benefit when I return to my lab and continue my research, hopefully enabling me to be a much more effective scientist.
How many CSHL courses have you attended?
This is my first time at CSHL and I’d love to return to this amazing place!
If someone curious in attending your course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Go for it! Absolutely! I can’t recommend it highly enough, as both an academic and a personal experience – you’ll have the chance to interact with leaders in the field and learn an amazing amount, as well as meeting your peers from a broad range of labs who you’ll have plenty of opportunity to have fun with. For me, this was my first time travelling trans-Atlantic and my first time travelling alone altogether, and I was pretty scared to do it – but one week in, I have absolutely no regrets, so I would say to anyone who might be worried about that aspect that it is totally worth it.
What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I absolutely love the campus! I’ve never seen labs set in such a beautiful environment, and being a real nature-lover, it’s amazing to walk through such picturesque scenery on my way to and from the lab each day. In fact, if I had to pick one non-science-related highlight, I think it would be walking out of Grace and immediately seeing a real-life chipmunk running across the path ahead of me!
Rebecca received a stipend from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to cover a portion of her Mouse course tuition. Thank you to HHMI for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend CSHL courses where they expand their skills, knowledge and network.