Undergraduate Research

Anh Vo, Biological Sciences

“It’s been an amazing opportunity, especially for a freshman!”

"This summer I was able to work with Prof. Thomas Shea and his team in the field of biological sciences – specifically, neurobiology. The main goal of our research is to understand more about the language of neurons. Neurons, the “thinking” cells of the brain, transmit electrical signals. Dr. Shea always compares those signals to words in our English language. For example, in any page of any novel, the word “the” would appear most frequently, followed by words like “and” and “of.” Other words can be extremely rare. Do neurons "speak" in the same way? Our team cultures embryonic mouse brain cells in petri dishes containing MEA, which allow a computer to record their signals. My job is to print out those signals as graphs, and search for and tally up different signal patterns that occur. Our hypothesis is that if the signals do contain information, signals would not occur randomly. We’ve observed that some signals do indeed occur more than others, suggesting that the signal patterns contained information (language). This Co-op experience has definitely been enlightening. I’ve learned a lot about research and how scientists really have to be patient. Although working behind a computer and looking at graphs can be tedious, I’ve learned that is exactly what it takes to produce great results in any field of research. I’ve had a wonderful time meeting and working with the team here this summer. It’s been an amazing opportunity, especially for a freshman!"