I completed my research on campus in chemistry Professor Kyle Broaders’ lab. During the summer, I worked full time for about nine weeks, although I have been working on this project since January. 

Basically, I used the concepts typically learned in Organic Chemistry to engineer a biocompatible polymer that can be made into microparticles and inserted into the body. These microparticles can carry drugs or possibly genes that would be flushed into the body, and this form of immunology is called particulate immunotherapy. It’s better than vaccines because it doesn’t require a live virus — which is contagious — to inoculate and the particles are customizable based on their intended function. They also don’t have to be injected through IV into the bloodstream, they can be injected directly to a specific area and will not be distributed throughout the entire body if desired.

My long term goals are to hopefully write a thesis including this work and a whole lot more. For both of us — Professor Broaders and me — we are working to publish this work by the end of the school year and we have a huge list of further experiments to expand upon our current data.

I have learned so much from this experience about the world of research in general and about the discipline of polymer chemistry on the micro scale. Working full time over the summer was a wake-up call because all of a sudden it wasn’t just an hour or two every other day in lab, it was eight to nine hours every single day. It was challenging but rewarding and I liked being able to accomplish things at an exponentially faster rate than I could during the semester. I learned how to plan out my entire week and how to be self-motivated and autonomous. 

My advice to students hoping to do summer research is to join a lab in the spring so you already have an idea of what you will be doing and you can get the most out of the time during the summer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if you’ve asked the same question before. Sometimes —  depending on the nature of your research — you could be working with potentially dangerous materials and no one will blame you if you say you’d feel more comfortable being watched by a supervisor the first (or even second) time you go through a procedure. 

Also, make sure you get yourself out of the lab at least a few times a week because it’s the summer, and Vitamin D is good for you. I haven’t personally done research off campus, but I know people that have and their advice usually is similar; explore the area that you’re working in with your fellow researchers. Make friends with them because you probably have a lot in common.