Measuring stress in laboratory rats

By Joyce Kim


Riley Guerin ’11 spent his summer in New York working at the Rockefeller University Lab of Neuroendocrinology, run by Dr. Bruce McEwen.

Guerin was the youngest in the program, working alongside undergraduate and graduate students doing research and conducting experiments in the lab. He spent his time assisting his mentor, Ph.D. student Melinda Miller, with her research.

“I worked almost every day for two months of the summer, always starting before 10 a.m. and ending after 4 p.m.” Guerin said. “Sometimes we worked well into the night.”

Because Dr. McEwen’s focus in science is on stress, all of the projects Guerin worked on had to do with stress levels.

“In one of the projects I was testing what the effects of a missing receptor for the neuropeptide NPY are in chronically stressed rats,” Guerin said.

“Also, if I had free time, I spent it reading scientific journals. They not only taught me more about what I was researching, but they are also rich with ideas for other directions in research. It’s a very long process to truly understand a journal article; it involves hours of re-reading and looking up terms, but it is time well spent,” he said.

Regardless of the fact that the majority of his work was on research that was not his own, the experience he gained this summer is valuable to him as a future scientist.

“This research experience has given me a small set of very useful skills that will later help me get into other labs, and eventually into a graduate university to get a Ph.D.,” Guerin said.

“This summer gave me insight into the real world of science, preparing me for the day to day life of a career scientist.”

Guerin plans to study abroad next summer as well.