Huijing (Lavender) Yu

I have been planning what I am going to do for my first summer after my freshman year at college since Thanksgiving break of last year [2013]. I enjoy being busy and learning different and new things when I am not in school. Summer vacation is four months long. Therefore, I feel I have to do something meaningful to maximize my experience as an undergraduate. So, I decided to make my summer schedule as interesting as possible. Luckily, I was able to get an undergraduate research position at the Whitehead Institute, which is a biomedical research institute that is a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  I spent my summer learning about genomic engineering, its applications and development. The lab that I was working in focuses on genome engineering in human and mouse embryonic stem cells, using a new technique called CRISPR/Cas. Through this new technology, we are able to cut, insert and modify any genomic sequence, such as promoter regions, enhancer regions and coding regions to see what would be the effect on the phenotype of interest. So far, I have learned a lot of research and lab bench skills that I would have never learned in a course lab, such as designing and implementing the CRISPR system, DNA extraction, plasmid digestion with restriction enzymes, plasmid cloning, cell culture and of course troubleshooting. I have also been able to meet many graduate students at Whitehead and have been able to learn some biology from their projects. I spent three days per week in the lab, usually from 12pm-6pm.