Intern helps build mouse brain database

By Lauren Siegel

As the only high school intern at UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Molly Cinnamon ’14 spent her summer conducting and observing experiments that will contribute to neuroscience research.

Cinnamon worked closely with Dr. Hong-wei Dong. The internship involved an exploration and mapping of the mouse brain. These images would be put onto a database called iConnectome, which is an online compilation of brain images. Researchers worldwide can then collaboratively view and annotate these high-resolution images. The goal of the project is to create a three-dimensional “atlas” of a mouse’s brain. This project may be a precursor for imaging species with larger brains.

After reading about Dong’s work online, Cinnamon was intrigued. She set up a meeting with Dong, which quickly led to her being offered the internship.

From late June to late August, Cinnamon dedicated three hours a day, four to five days a week, to working in the lab.

The internship included hands on work as well as observing surgeries and experiments on mice.

At 16 she was the youngest intern in the lab, but had to work at an undergraduate level with college students.

“Not only was my work contributing to a larger project of significance, but I also was able to glean a lot from the undergraduates and grad students working there,” Cinnamon said.

Her time at the lab inspired Cinnamon to continue to explore the field of Neuroscience.

She hopes to spend next summer at a lab, whether it be the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging or elsewhere.

“I figure now is the time to experience everything,” she said.