Juniors, seniors conduct stem cell, cancer research at USC summer internship

Jonah Ullendorff

Eight juniors and seniors interned at a Stem Cell Research Laboratory at the University of Southern California this summer studying cancer cells and cutting open mice brains.

Students spent the first week of the program in a lab learning basic cell culture techniques like pipetting, aspirating media and feeding and cultivating cells.

After this, students were assigned to individual labs where they assisted graduate students with their research.

The students who attended the program were Sylvia Sanders ’17, Emerson Harris ’17, Sharon Chow ’16, Jonathan Seymour ’16, Jonah Goldman ’16, Hannah Kelson ’16, Roy Dritley ’16 and Alex Kihiczak ’16.

“I did the job because it’s so awesome,” Sanders said. “I have always wanted to perform research on cancer, and the fact that I was able to start that dream at such a young age was absolutely amazing. I didn’t think twice about accepting, and I’m so glad I did. It was everything I had wanted and more. It was truly a life-altering experience.”

Chow signed up for the program due to her interest in learning more about research and stem cells. She was assigned to work in Dr. Michael Bonaguidi’s lab, which focused on neurogenesis, the creation of new stem cells in the brain.

“We’re working on two main projects, and the one I am part of is the aging study,” Chow said. “What we do in this project is study the effect of aging on neural stem cells or radial glia-like cells (RGLs) and their fate choice. We harvest the [mouse] brains, cut them and stain them with flourescent antibodies with a sparse-labeling technique so the cells show up under an epiflourescent microscope. We then take pictures of the cells with a confocal microscope that takes two to three micron thick photo slices so we can make a 3-D rendering of it.”

After participating in the program during the summer, Chow has considered research as a vocation for when she is older.

Chow was taken by surprise that her work required live lab mice that needed to be harvested for her research.

“Personally, I cut and stained a lot of brains over those past eight weeks, which I never expected to do,” Chow said.

Sanders, Goldman and Seymour worked in the Stem Cell Core Facility, a lab in the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

Seymour assisted a graduate student whose research was to determine the function of a specific protein found in cancer stem cells.

As a result, Seymour was working with varying types of live cancer cells for his internship.

Although Seymour said he can’t see himself becoming a doctor in the future, he is interested in doing research in later on.

“I had no idea what I would be doing until I stepped into the lab on the first day,” Seymour said. “In a million years, I would never have seen myself working with cancer, so that was shocking when I learned that that was what I would be doing.”