Thursday, July 18, 2013

Accepting The Challenge Of Undergraduate Research

Shiney David, a Verrazano Psychology major, has been doing research for independent study as part of her Verrazano course requirement.  Below, Shiney shares more about the research she's involved in and what she has learned from the experience.

Shiney David outside the lab
My name is Shiney David, I’m a Psychology major with a future goal of becoming a successful physical therapist. In order to fulfill my Verrazano course requirement and to receive my remaining three credits to graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology, I decided to enroll in an independent research study with Professor Bertram Ploog. Professor Ploog’s research focuses on behavioral animal models to study abnormal attention patterns in children with autism. His particular field of interest was very appealing to me because my career goal is to become a physical therapist specializing in pediatrics.

Professor Ploog's current research, the project that I'm involved in, focuses on analyzing effects of taurine, a dietary supplement, on learning and memory.  In this research, the aim is to measure the improvement in memory and learning in aged pigeons that are treated with the taurine supplement.  Previous research has found taurine to act as an an agonist (a substance that binds to a receptor to induce a biochemical response) of GABA receptors in the central nervous system.  GABA is the most abundant inhibitory transmitter which is responsible for cognitive flexibility.  Furthermore, it has been found that taurine supplements lead to an increase in GABA levels.  If taurine increases the level of this neurotransmitter, then age-related brain dysfunction could be minimized and treated substantially and successfully.  Keeping these theories in mind, Professor Ploog created a paradigm where he divided a group of pigeons into three sets of four.  The first set was a group of young pigeons that were not treated with taurine, the second set was a group of old pigeons that were also not treated with taurine, and the third set was a group of old pigeons treated with taurine.  The first two sets served as control groups for this experiment.  My tasks involved bringing each set to the experiment room, placing them in the chambers, and running the test.  Once all sets were run, I had to weigh the birds and feed them according to their weights.  At the present moment, all the data that's critical to have for my paper has been collected.  I am in the process of analyzing it and am really curious to see whether any positive effects of taurine on learning and memory can be yielded.  

For my last undergraduate course, I wanted to challenge myself in a way that could prepare me for the graduate program I will be starting this fall.  As expected, this research experience transcended all the knowledge I had acquired over the past three years.  This course exposed me to methodological techniques that helped me polish up my analytical thinking and organizational abilities, along with my writing and problem-solving skills.  This opportunity also taught me how to engage in the creation of new knowledge on the cutting edge of an academic discipline.  As the course has come to an end, I believe that I can now confidently apply the skills and knowledge acquired to real-world problems when needed.  For students who are thinking about taking a research course during their undergraduate career, I would like to say that it is an amazing opportunity that one should not miss.  A research course will teach you the skills that you might not learn in a regular classroom environment.  Although you may face some difficulties, in the near future you will be very grateful for the experience.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Aspiring To Help Patients - A Future Nurse's Internship Experience

Alexandra Imbesi, a student in the Verrazano Class of 2016, participated in a Nursing internship this summer through the Health Career Opportunity Program at the Rusk Institute at New York University.  Alexandra was also recently accepted to the Nursing Program at the College of Staten Island for Fall 2013.  Read below for her internship experience in her own words.
Alexandra Imbesi

This summer I was accepted to the Nursing Department of the Rusk Health Career Opportunity Program (HCOP) at the Rusk Institute.  It is a four-week long summer internship opportunity given to students to gain experience in the fast-paced hospital setting and network with professionals.  Based on students’ interests and skills, the HCOP places qualified groups of interns into departments across the hospital. Students can volunteer almost everywhere, from shadowing nurses to the psychology research department. This summer’s program had interns in medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nutrition, speech pathology, pharmacy, horticultural therapy, recreational therapy, and social work. Each department invites students to observe the work of professionals and assist in certain tasks.

On a typical day I shadowed a nurse from 8 to 3 and then attended interesting lectures by members of the medical field. I worked with patients being rehabilitated from devastating neurological injuries and diseases.  During my stay I was able to see drastic changes in many of the patients and watch many of them recover well enough to get discharged. One particular patient that I followed throughout my internship was a 37-year-old man who had recently been paralyzed in a car accident, in which his two children passed away.  When he was initially admitted, the patient was completely dependent on others to complete basic tasks. It was truly remarkable to see this quadriplegic patient who, through intense dedication and hard work, re-learned how to use utensils and dress himself. Even with his emotional and physical disabilities, the patient managed to remain motivated and inspire everyone around him.  It was extremely satisfying to see the pride and excitement on his face as he made progress and accomplishments.  The joy I felt as I watched this man recover heightened my desire to become a nurse. 
Twice a week I attended team conferences with doctors, residents, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, pharmacists, and nurses that all work together to maximize patient care. The team met for discussion and decision-making regarding patient care. These sessions help healthcare professionals keep up with every patient’s history and progress.  During the conferences I was encouraged to ask questions and participate in discussion pertaining to patients' diagnoses and care plans.  These conferences were great learning experiences; I was both surprised and impressed to see the interaction and cooperation among the doctors, nurses and therapists.   
One unforgettable experience during my internship was observing an autopsy at the Chief Medical Examiners Office.  I observed the medical examiner remove each organ and weigh, dissect and analyze them. After the organs had been removed, the technician began drawing blood samples from the heart and chest cavity. For me the most interesting organ was the heart.  Being able to examine the coronary arteries, the aorta, and the chambers was an astonishing experience. It was a fascinating moment seeing all the intricate arteries and chambers that make the heart.  
The HCOP internship was an amazing experience.  Speaking with the nurses on my unit made me even more excited to start nursing classes this fall.  This opportunity helped me realized that I am certain that I want to be a nurse in order to help patients succeed in reaching the highest quality of life and independence possible for them.