A Day in the Lab, With Lessons for a Lifetime

In an underground lab located on UW Medicine’s South Lake Union campus, two researchers are using a laser needle puller to draw glass capillaries into injection needles. Later, the needles will be used to inject zebrafish embryos with an influenza protein, the next step in an investigation that may yield new information about the effectiveness of different flu vaccines.

On this particular afternoon, the research is being conducted in the Aquatics Core belonging to the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM).  Soon, the project will shift to Chehalis, Washington, where the researchers, Noah Layton and Dawson Brindle, are seniors at W.F. West High School.

For Noah and Dawson, spending a full day with ISCRM scientists stoked their already roaring  love of science and gave them the tools they’ll need to continue their research. “I’m working with influenza and zebrafish,” says Noah, narrating as he manipulated the laser needle puller with seasoned dexterity.  “I came here to learn about zebrafish, especially how to start and maintain a zebrafish colony.”

“We get to design our own research projects in class,” Dawson adds. “I’m doing one with bioprinting skin. Right now, we’re learning how to use the microinjector so we can get one at school.”

“Basically, we’re adding more technology for the molecular genetics program,” Noah continues. “And we’ll be able to teach other people. It’s a way to pass on the knowledge so it keeps going.”

Two sets of eyes are watching Noah and Dawson move expertly through the lab. Jeanot Muster, Director of the ISCRM Aquatics Core, leans in occasionally to offer direction or to consult on techniques. Observing the action from the doorway is Wendy Neal, a science teacher at W.F. West High School.

Late in the summer of 2018, Ms. Neal helped run a multi-day summer science experience that included hands-on sessions led by ISCRM scientists in Chehalis and a tour of ISCRM labs in Seattle for a busload of W.F. Students.

“I thought it would be great for Noah and Dawson to see a lab and to meet real researchers,” says Wendy.  “I never imagined it would lead to a full-day of hands-on learning. This is exposure many people don’t get until graduate school.”

Noah and Dawson returned to Chehalis with a deeper understanding about the careers they are pursuing and an expanded skill set they can use right away. As they set up their own zebrafish lab, they’ll be learning applied lessons about conducting research and leaving a legacy.

“A huge opportunity,” says Dawson, who is going to school for aerospace engineering.

Noah, who plans to go into molecular genetics, nods in agreement. “It’s been amazing.”