A Postcard From: Esther Kim ’20

Name: Esther Kim
Class Year: 2020
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Gwangju, South Korea and Singapore
Internship Placement: Lewis Katz, Temple University School of Medicine; Shriners Pediatrics Hospital Research Center
Location: Philadelphia

How did you get connected?

I have a friend who used to work at the same lab a few years ago. He got me connected to the PI and they agreed to give a place for me to work for the summer.

What’s happening at your internship? What are you doing there?

There are many different projects going on the lab but their main focus of research is on gene therapy for spinal cord injury. It is a wet lab and there’s cool equipment I did not get to see in school labs. At this point (still the first half of the internship), I don’t hold a very important position in the lab, but I am helping here and there. A lot of the lab work consists of animal testing, so they require new lab workers a few weeks of training and lectures. There are lots of online courses and orientations to attend. It seemed more complicated than I thought. It was a good experience to witness that a lot of work and training is put into labs with animal testing.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I am a pre-med student, and eventually, I want to go to medical school. Not all doctors get heavily involved in medical research, but I wanted to discover if I liked it or not, and if I want to consider the research field as a possible career choice at all. After all, as a psychology student, getting involved in medical research is not easy. So when the opportunity came, I grabbed it. I think it’s important to try different things and find out what your interests are; you will never know until you try them!

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

Both yes and no. I knew that it was a wet lab so there were going to be the “typical” wet lab procedures that we do in school science labs. There are, however, differences. The lab is in a more professional setting and things are stricter and they take everything seriously and professionally. It made me nervous that if I messed up something, it would affect their research. I think there is a considerable responsibility to handling things in the lab even if it is a small thing because every work contributes to the research they are doing. I still have to do more training and learn, but eventually, I hope I get to handle more things. Also, I discovered that I do not hate research! I always had the idea that I would hate to be in the lab working alone all day, but it was rather therapeutic to concentrate and work on the samples.