An EPIC Advantage research internship gave Malvika Dua ’20 experience in biological techniques and a more realistic understanding of the process of research.
As a research assistant at the Schepens Eye Research Institute at Harvard Medical School, Dua’s interest in research was confirmed.
“Our lab focused on glaucoma and looks for mechanisms that underlie glaucoma and how it occurs so they can make therapies,” she says. “I did biological techniques, and learning the new techniques was really fun.
“I did the Elisa technique, Western-blot and flow cytometry. It was a lot of human cell culturing and then taking those cells, plating them and running experiments on them to see how they react.”
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the States, but Dua says no one knows how it occurs. Current treatments work to relieve pressure and slow the progression of the disease.
“Glaucoma is interesting,” she says. “I’m a neuroscience major and this experience was a blending of the two fields of immunology and neuroscience.”
The most important lesson, however, may have been about perseverance.
“I also learned that in research everything goes wrong before it goes right,” she says. “My first month I was really discouraged, almost in tears. After my fifth experiment failed I began to question, am I doing something wrong, do I have the necessary skills? The people there gave me a lot of encouragement and helped me to see that it was all part of the process. Every experiment gives more insight.”
Dua is ambitious in the classroom as well. Each semester at Earlham, she has enrolled in 18 credit hours.
“I want to learn and do so much,” she says. “I’ve taken physics, chemistry, biology and psychology classes that I don’t need for my major, but they sound interesting. And they will be helpful for graduate school applications.”
Dua will study as part of the Philadelphia Program next semester, an off-campus urban experiential program, and hopes to secure a research internship at the University of Pennsylvania.
“From 9th grade on I’ve been drawn to studying the brain,” she says. “I took my first neural course then, and ever since I’ve wanted to know everything there is to know about it. I figured that there’s not a lot that we know about the brain, and it’s really cool to think that I could discover something that no one else knows.”
Dua says she is better prepared to continue learning about the brain after her EPIC Advantage experience at Schepens. Research jobs and graduate schools require the knowledge and skills made possible by EPIC.
“It’s the Harvard stamp,” she says. “I did way more than usual summer interns do. They asked me what I wanted to do, which techniques I wanted to learn. I asked a lot of questions and they were very receptive. Going in they told me to get the most out of the experience, and I did.”