So at the beginning of this semester, I started working in a research lab at the U. So far it's been a really cool learning experience for me. Sometimes it's frustrating because I feel like I'm not much of a contribution (which is true), but over the next couple of years, this should give me a great experience, and help with applications to grad schools and employment in the future.
I just wanted to explain a little about what I do. Overall the purpose is to better understand how heart cells change when they are in a diseased state vs. a normal state, so that we can know how to replace those cells with tissue engineered ones - (as one possible solution).
What I do is take rabbit and rat hearts, and slice them into very thin (~100 micrometers) slices, and then dye them with antibodies that attach specifically to proteins on the cell membrane, followed by secondary antibodies which fluoresce. Then, we use confocal microscopy to create a 3-d image of the fluorescent antibodies which outline the cell. It looks something like this, only with a bunch of cells all connected to each other, rather than separate:
My main responsibility is to use a computer program to form an outline in 3 dimensions of as many of these cells as I can, without the outlines overlapping, and as close to the actual borders of the cells as possible. These images are then processed and we are able to analyze how the cells deform given certain stresses or other stimuli.
It's cool to be able to learn more about this, and it makes me more and more interested in hearts and how they function. After all, our heart is the life-organ of our existence.