Anjali Kapoor (VI)
This summer, I was able to learn about two of my favorite subjects outside of the classroom. I interned at an orthopedics lab where I was exposed to a whole new side of biology research, and I traveled to Spain and Cancun to immerse myself in Spanish culture.
I spent most of my summer interning at Dr. O’Connor’s orthopedics lab at Rutgers Medical School. I had conducted microbiology research in the past, but this was my first time working with something larger than a cell––a mouse.
I also learned about the many different projects occurring in the lab. One Ph.D. student was working on improving the efficiency of bone allografts, a surgical procedure that repairs missing pieces of a bone. I watched her perform numerous rat surgeries, in which she anesthetized the rat, cut out a piece of the femur bone, filled the gap with bone chips and a variable treatment, and then stitched up the rat. It was fascinating to watch the surgery because it was just like a human surgery, just on a much smaller scale. After a number of weeks, we would X-ray the rat to determine how well the bone was healing. I helped by examining X-rays and creating, staining, and analyzing microscope slides of bone slices. This research could identify treatments that can be used to expedite bone healing for human bone injuries.
Another scientist was working on perfecting the technology to track the flexion of a rabbit in 3D space. She walked me through a giant set up of multiple x-ray machines and cameras. Together, these machines tracked the movement of titanium beads, which she had inserted into the rabbit spine. It was amazing to see this extremely integrated application of math, biology, and technology. This novel experiment has the potential to help us understand the movement and coordination of different bones in the body, such as the bones in our ear canal, which scientists currently do not completely understand.
Most of my research this summer focused on trying to better understand the role of COX-2, a protein involved in bone formation. The lab was particularly interested in this protein because over-the-counter painkillers inhibit its function, and as a result, may be simultaneously impairing bone healing. Understanding this individual protein’s function could also give insight into the broader connection between inflammation and bone healing.
After the completion of my internship, my family traveled to Cancun and Spain. After studying Spanish for the past seven years, I was excited to finally travel to the countries I had learned so much about. In Cancun, my favorite experience was scuba diving at the Underwater Museum of Art. The museum grew out of an idea a non-profit organization had twenty years ago to preserve the coral reefs: they submerged the art of five Mexican sculptors as an alternative site for divers. It was mesmerizing to see how statues of humans and cars had transformed into habitats for marine life. In Spain, my breath was taken away upon entering La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí that is still being built, 137 years after work commenced. The colored stained glass walls created a magical rainbow glow in the room.
Ultimately, I had a very memorable and thought-provoking summer. On the one hand, I got to learn new research methods, utilize cutting-edge lab technology, and, in a small way, contribute to the future of orthopedic medicine. On the other hand, I was able to improve my Spanish speaking skills and experience Spanish culture while exploring two unique countries.