Katarina K.

July 20th – August 13th (4.13 hours) – I started my internship by going on a tour, given by Dr. Kieu, of the current projects his students are working on. He showed me the lab they build laser in, along with a lab that was actually putting a multiphoton microscope into use. I am working with the students using the multiphoton microscope on collecting data from things such as geographical samples and cancer cells. I spent most of my first few days filling out University of Arizona paperwork that will allow me to actually use the microscope, as well as the internship paperwork. My mentor and I have figured out a schedule that works for us where I go in once a week on Wednesday to fit with his busy schedule. So far I have had the opportunity to look at different samples from things such as fresh fish gills to dog tongue under a light microscope, and I’ve started making observations in my very own scientific journal. I was not able to use the multiphoton microscope yet due to a big project they’ve been working on for years using it for the entire time I was there. It is a very exciting paper on finding pancreatic cancer tissue in a more efficient way using a laser, and I can’t wait to see if they are able to get any further with their recent discoveries from a fresh mouse pancreas that only lives for 48 hours after it has been removed from the mouse.

I hope to learn certain skills that will help me in my future career. I would like to work on my people skills especially because I already feel I am a very organized person, but sometimes I struggle in communication. I feel that working in a research-based environment will help, not only improve my organization skills, but also teach me some technical writing. Technical writing is very unique to the scientific world, and it is often overlooked, but I understand how important it is to be able to write clearly and concisely. From my mentor, I would like to learn the physics behind lasers when using them in a microscope, as well as the ability to use a multiphoton microscope on my own collected samples. First I need to take a laser safety course, but after that I will be able to collect my own samples and hopefully get some really cool pictures of the second and third harmonic generations of microscopy.

As a student, I found it very easy to contact my teachers at a convenient time, but as a professional, I’ve discovered my schedule must be flexible in order to fit other people’s schedules. I have learned how to contact someone in an appropriate manner, and how to respond to someone in a timely and appropriate fashion. I have also learned how much effort goes into each resumé, and how much of it actually is read by a possible employer, which shocks me quite a bit. However, I have learned how to reuse things such as my resumé for new opportunities, as long as it is not out of date. One last thing I have discovered that is specific to the science field is the difference between how science is done and how science is taught. I’ve found that in most science classrooms the teacher gives the students all of the answers to what they should be looking for, but ever since my internship has started I’ve learned about how scientists observe and guess, but never really find a true answer unless they find evidence proving it true.

August 14th – August 27th (6.15 hours) – At my internship site I had a very meaningful experience when I visited another optics lab with my mentor. My mentor started as an undergraduate student in this lab, which designs holographic technology using the light cones in things such as computer or television screens. I met the person running the lab and he talked to me about what they want to accomplish within the next year or two. They have two major goals: creating 3D movies/computers without the need for 3D glasses and create a 3D car dashboard that can be displayed up on the windshield whenever the driver of the car wants. He showed me the current lasers they are working with in order to create a 3D image, but they mostly work with the light cones in screens. In each screen is an insane number of light cones that we see from one angle, but a 3D image would mean we would need to be able to see these cones from multiple angles at one time to trick our eyes into thinking it is a 3D image. I see many advantages from these projects and it has made me more interested in the different types of optics I can learn from.

August 28th – September 10th (7.13 hours) – These last two weeks I’ve spent more time using the Multiphoton Microscope. I was able to collect pictures of samples from a meteorite that landed in Russia approximately three years ago. They pictures were very interesting, and my mentor sent them to me after they were processed so I can put them into my SEP presentation at the end of the years. I also was able to complete my interview with my mentor, and I managed to come up with a critical issue to write my SEP paper on. I plan on writing about how the scientific method isn’t appropriate to teach in schools because it doesn’t represent how scientists actually figure things out, and it scares many people away from the scientific field. This last week my mentor’s brother ran over his phone and donated it to science. That means when I went in on Wednesday I got to take the phone apart and study different pieces of it under the Multiphoton Microscope. I wasn’t able to find any conclusive data, but sometimes that happens in the scientific world. I hope next week I can collect some more pictures for my presentation!

Due to my internship location being a college, there is no specific way to conduct myself that I’ve been given. However, I spend a lot of my time listening to how different Optical applications work, and collecting pictures of different samples under the microscope. I have learned how to run the microscope, and the different rules in place that will keep it from being damaged. I also have learned some skills in technical writing through reading some articles my mentor provides me that he or other people have written about what we’re working on. It seems that in the Optics department the most appropriate behavior to have is a willingness to learn new things from other people or explore new ideas.

I, personally, believe the need for the ability to ask questions is quite suiting to my current personality. In a lot of science projects, the scientists running them don’t actually know what to expect. Of course they are able to create educated inferences based on previous testing, but a lot of people in science have a goal of being published, which means they have to run experiments that haven’t been done before. The Optics department is also very new and many different things haven’t been done because of this, so every time I go to my site I have to be willing to adapt to new projects or old ones that were never finished. I have to constantly be on the lookout for new breakthroughs, no matter how small they seem at the time. On thing I have struggled in is the level of education required to understand how the microscope works, thoroughly. I lack some of the physics and math classes that everyone else on the projects have, so sometimes I find it difficult to keep up, but that is something that I feel will change overtime.

One vocabulary term that is used a lot is “photon.” A light photon is a particle of electromagnetic energy that is very stable in comparison to other elementary particles. Photons of light often vibrate at frequencies that we can manipulate and use in the microscope to pick up on small things our eyes can’t.

September 11th – September 24th (3.25 hours) – In the last two weeks I was only able to visit my internship only once due to a few scheduling problems, but when I was there I spent most of my time learning how to research for a college paper. My mentor is writing a paper on the fluorescence of different human body parts under the Multiphoton Microscope, so we are currently in the research portion of the experiment. He provided me with a few websites to search through while he looked through others. I found a few very interesting articles on the chemical that makes jellyfish glow: aequorin. I then started researching if there were any experiments that used this chemical and found some that injected aequorin into mice with calcium. The scientists found that this allows them to track the growth of tumors in mice, which would most likely have the same affect in humans. I also was able to watch my mentor solder some wires to a diode that will eventually be put into another Microscope that I’m going to help make over Fall Break.

This week I learned the word diode at my internship site. A diode is a small piece of metal that connects wires to a light inside a small box, creating a powerful laser beam. The diodes help transfer the electricity from the wires to the light that will shoot a small piece of fiberglass wire, creating a laser powerful enough to burn the cornea in the human eye.

September 25th – October 8th (28.5 hours) – In the last two weeks I spent a lot of time at my internship. The first week I was able to tour a few other microscopy labs across the University of Arizona campus, which my mentor’s father runs. He showed me the different types of lasers the U of A uses on a daily basis and some of the projects he’s working on. I also worked with my mentor by doing some research on the different advantages and disadvantages of each of the lasers that I saw on the tour. During the second week I went to a few meetings about a project my mentor is working on to stop Pancreatic Cancer from being so deadly. They currently are testing how the bubbles that target cancer cells react with dead cancer cells in the body. Then I toured some Biomedical labs, and I was able to get the contact information from one of the well-known scientists running the Biomedical labs. He offered me a position in one of his labs when I start attending the U of A next year, and I think I might take it. Overall, these last two weeks have been very productive and I’m excited to start attending the laser classes my mentor has set up for me these next couple of weeks.

The most common use of communication at my site would be email. My mentor isn’t currently taking any classes at the U of A because he’s already gained all of the credits required to obtain a PhD, and he’s very busy working on various projects for the U of A that will allow him to write the required number of papers for his PhD. Due to his ability to stay in his lab all day long he spends a lot of time on his computer, and he sends and responds to every email almost immediately. It’s very appropriate for the U of A because the campus is rather big, and having in-person conversations would slow down some of the breakthroughs. However, in-person communication is also a big method of communication because there are multiple people in the lab I intern at. The different scientists and students often like to bounce ideas off of each other, while they work on new projects. I do have my mentor’s cell phone number in case of emergencies, but I’ve never had to use it.

I’m very comfortable using email because I have been using email to communicate with my teachers for a few years now. I also have been emailed from various colleges and other organizations, so I keep my email on my phone as well as my computer. I’m notified every time I get a new email in either my personal or business email. I also prefer email over text because I’m not the most tech-savvy person, even though I’m expected to be due to my age. I prefer to write out everything I say, and often times emails are more proper in that way. I also find that email is much easier to organize that texting, especially when I know I’ll get a very quick response from my mentor.

One vocabulary word that I’ve learned this week that isn’t exactly specific to Optics, but it’s very specific to one of my mentor’s projects. The term “ligand” is often thrown around our lab because of the Pancreatic Cancer project. The bubbles that are able to find the cancerous cells use ligands to find the cell. Each cancer is specific in the way the cell is structured, so the bubbles are equipped with specific ligand that will only attract to Pancreatic Cancer cells. They won’t even target another type of cancer because each cancer is so specific.

October 9th – October 22nd (5.5 hours) – In the last two weeks I have taken my Laser Safety Training course, and I have had my internship site visit with Mrs. Polivchak. My Laser Safety Training course was a very valuable class that I’m required to take if I ever plan on building or adjusting the lasers I work with more closely. I learned all the different Laser classifications given by different Laser Safety organizations. The UofA is required to follow all of the rules for each of the different laser classifications while the lasers are out of storage. At the end of the class I took a test, and based on how well I do on that test will determine if I passed the training. Then I had my internship site visit with Mrs. Polivchak, where I was able to listen to my mentor discuss my performance. He decided that I’m doing well, but I need to ask more questions because of how hard it is to understand all of the physics behind the laser work we do. I plan on taking this guidance, and now that I understand the basics of lasers from my Safety Training course I hope to better understand the Multiphoton Microscope.

One term I was introduced to this week was mode-locking. It has to do with a process inside a laser that stops that laser beam in femtoseconds, creating a pulsed laser. By using a pulsed laser beam more power is built up each time the beam is stopped then allowed through. Because of this increase in the power, less power can be used to power the pulsed beam at the same output power as a continuous beam.

October 23rd – November 5th (6 hours) – In the last couple weeks I was introduced to a computer program called Photoshop. My mentor, Ben, has used it since he was little, and he uses it for creating diagrams to use in scientific papers. He showed me a couple of diagrams he’s made in the past of different types of lasers, and now I’m working on my own diagram for the Multiphoton Wikipedia page we’re writing. I’ve spent a couple of hours navigating my way through the tutorials and I’ve started my diagram over the last couple weeks. Then on Halloween we went to a Halloween party, where I met a lot of new people. Many of them were curious about how I was introduced to Optics, and a few were disappointed that I didn’t learn about it through school. Ben and I started talking about possibly having him speak at my school about Optics to get more people interested in the field. This year I’m taking AP Physics, and my teacher seems very excited to have an Optics student talk to our class and his Astronomy class.

Quite a few times I have worked with other students instead of my mentor, Ben. Mostly I have worked with Ryan on a few experiments involving the Multiphoton Microscope. We have imaged different materials, including a microchip, and we’ve started researching information for the Multiphoton Microscope Wikipedia page while Ben was studying for his Graduate final exam. I also have worked with another student named Sean on a current project he’s working on. Sean is building a fiber laser that will be used in another microscope he’ll build later on. So far we’ve spliced the fiber pieces together and measured how much power is running through it without mode-locking.

At the Halloween party I attended this week I was able to meet a lot of new people, including a few women from the Women in Optics club. They told me a little bit about what they do, and they invited me to a few of the events they’re planning. They were all very nice. There also was a costume contest and the entire club dressed up as pumpkin pi. They wore all orange with the mathematical symbol pi painted on them. I was hoping they would win, but they got second place to a couple who dressed as characters from Courage the Cowardly Dog Show. I don’t really interact a lot with coworkers on an entirely social level because I only see about two or three a day, and most of the time we’re working on long-lasting projects. However, being college students they often can get off topic, so our conversations aren’t usually the most scientific.

One term I learned a few weeks ago was actually L.A.S.E.R. Apparently the word “laser” is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. I learned it through my Laser Safety Course and my mentor has quizzed me on it a couple times since then.

November 6th – November 19th (3 hours) – At my internship site this week we decided to do something a little more interesting for my last day this semester. We collected our own samples from outside to look at under the Multiphoton Microscope. We picked flowers and leaves from various plants. We even grabbed a few pieces from cacti and a single lime we found on a tree. After looking at a lot of the samples we decided to take some pictures and create 3D images of many of the plants. This took the longest because the Multiphoton scans one layer at a time. We ended up with a lot of really interesting pictures, especially one of a moth that I plan on using in my presentation for SEP. The rest of the time I spent working on my microscope diagram that I will use in my internship presentation at the end of the year.

According to my mentor I was very punctual, and usually a little bit early. We established a very easy schedule to follow, so sticking to it throughout this semester hasn’t been difficult for either of us. One time I had to cancel on my mentor last minute due to a family emergency, but I made sure he knew right away and it all worked out. I plan on changing the schedule slightly next semester in order to make it easier to earn more hours. This semester I was very busy with band activities, so I wasn’t able to go more than once a week. Next semester band will have a lot less practices because football season is over and I will be at my site twice a week. Both days I plan to go will be easy to follow because it will be during my free sixth period, which should be the same every week.

I think I have juggled all of my schedules very successfully this semester. I have maintained a 4.0 grade point average, despite taking four advanced placement classes and a writing 101 class through Pima Community College. I also have made it to almost all of the band practices and drum major practices required for me to keep such a high position in the band. I haven’t missed a single football game, pep assembly, or band competition. I’ve missed a couple of Professional Development Meetings due to them being on one of my most busiest days of the week, but I have made them up, and I have met all of the requirements needed to keep my internship. My mentor complimented a lot of my time management skills in our meeting to evaluate my performance, and I’ve already managed to fix some of the things he criticized about my performance. I’ve managed all of this while taking care of my chores and five year old sister when my parents are busy with their own work. I will admit, however, that one area that has suffered is my sleep schedule. I’ve lost quite a bit of sleep from working on homework and just dealing with the stress of being a senior, but next semester will be very different. Marching band will be over because the football and competition seasons are over, so I will have time after school Monday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as time on Saturdays to get things done at a better time of day.

One term that I already knew, but never knew it was used in a certain way before was “figure.” When writing a science paper to submit to a journal you should add figures in order to get your point across more easily. A figure is a picture specifically designed for one purpose in a paper, usually by the scientist writing the paper. I’m designing my own figure right now and so far it has proven to be very intricate.