Hello, my name is Ingrid Rocha and I am a pre-med student at Florida International University. My majors are in both Biological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies, and my minors are in Portuguese and Chemistry. I am pursuing these degrees in order to prepare for the difficult road to medical school.
As a student pursuing a career in medicine, it is very important that I become knowledgeable about important subjects such as biology and chemistry, but it is essential that I get hands-on experience as well. I am accomplishing this by working as a volunteer assistant in Dr. Mario Stevenson’s infectious disease research lab in conjunction with the University of Miami Medical School.
Dr. Stevenson is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Institute of AIDS and Emerging Infectious Diseases. There are many diseases being studied in the lab, however the most prominent subject is HIV and AIDS.
Within the lab, I work with Rebecca Peters, a graduate student, who is currently focusing on researching the latency time of HIV cells in various treatments. The purpose of such research is to find an effective cure for the disease. It is important to study the latency of HIV because research in the subject can lead to an indication on how to curb viral activity, essentially stopping the spread of disease.
Latency is the state in which the virus in question is not reproducing meaning no more viral cells are being produced. I applied to volunteer in Dr. Stevenson’s lab specifically due to the interest I have in research, as well as infectious diseases. Going into the medical field I believe it is essential to have an understanding of how medicine, treatments, and other procedures were created; that is, through research.
Some of the common activities that are done in the lab include creating new infections, feeding the cells, and conducting various tests and examinations on the cells. These examinations are done in order to determine how different treatments will cause the cells to react. Will they cause the HIV cells to live longer than expected? Will the HIV cells die in certain treatments? Will the cells multiply? These are all questions that must be answered in order for further research to be conducted and to develop a cure. In the first photo pictured above is a phagocytosis assay of one of the various tests conducted. The blue colors are the cell’s nuclei and the red indicate a successful phagocytosis took place. Phagocytosis is the process in which a phagocyte ingests bacteria or other materials. The third picture is a plate full of various cell treatments. Each tube holds live cells that are to be studied over a period of five to eight weeks.
It is important to note that this is an ongoing project that I am going to continue to participate in. This experience has opened my eyes to how rigorous and extensive the process is to introduce and develop new medical treatments to the public. It seems simple once the treatment is finally made public, however the process behind it is quite complex. This experience has thus developed in me a greater sense of respect towards scientists who dedicate their time to finding ways to improve the lives of many. By working in the lab, I have been exposed to techniques I never would have known existed. This experience has also caused me to consider doing a MD/PhD program in medical school. It is a big decision to make, however my interest in research continues to grow. My only regret in this whole experience is that, due to my busy school schedule, I am unable to spend more time in the lab. I spend my Friday’s in the lab and have recently gotten approval to go on Monday’s as well. This will enable me to learn even more about the subject matter and hopefully bring us ever closer to finding a cure for a disease that affects so many.
Sr. Administrative Assistant to Dr. Mario Stevenson, PhD
Professor of Medicine and Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Life Science Technology Park
1951 NW 7th Avenue, Room 2331A
Miami, FL 33136
(O) 305- 243-1988
*A total of over 10 service hours were completed at the institution discussed above, however this is an ongoing assignment. For further inquiry contact information is provided above.