Post Bac Researcher in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism

Post Bac Researcher in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism


(MUSIC) (MUSIC) I’m Katie Kaugars and I’m at the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. I help out with the imaging and
microscopy and then I also work on genotyping. So I
grew up in Richmond, Virginia and as a kid I was not great at math and science… or like reading. I just couldn’t understand it. But in middle school I really started
falling in love with science because I realize that I could explain things around the world that I’d never… that I’d never known why they happen…like why water boils. Like where the air comes
from. You know when it bubbles out of the water because you know there’s no gas when you look at it. And then all of a sudden it it gets hot enough and the bubbles start going. And so
that’s when I really started to fall in love with science… when I realized that science could tell me why those things are happening and then help me predict when they would happen to what extent. And I started research
like kind of on a whim… and I really fell in love with it…I really
liked it because it’s something different every day. It fits within a larger context of humans
understanding the way the world is and the way our bodies work. We’re looking at alcoholism and alcohol abuse. There’s a lot of factors that go into
that that people don’t understand just yet and so there’s the huge nature versus
nurture debate. And so we’re kind of more on the nature
side of things. What we’re looking at right now is kind of
like the genetic background of alcoholism and how genes can
contribute to alcoholism developing. We’re using a
technique which is very advanced and very exciting, that uses lasers to
control behavior. We basically implant a light sensitive
protein into neurons, which are brain cells
essentially. And so by turning on a light we can…kind of like a light switch
actually…turn the neurons on and off. And so this is a blue frequency. We
also have a green, which can activate a different channel and kind of produce a different behavioral response. For microscopy we use the fluorescent
microscopy, which is basically glow in the dark. Like when you turn off
the lights in one in those room with the stars on the ceiling. That’s kind of
like the same thing because it glows without the light actually
being on. And so the molecules that we have that we’re attaching are for fluorescent. And so when they attach to
these proteins of interests…you know the proteins that we want… they can glow and so we can tell where these proteins are and what number. For genotyping I use a technique called polymerase chain
reaction. The first part of polymerase chain
reaction, which is the way that you can multiply DNAs, so you can tell if
there’s a gene of interest in a sample. Typically you have to know whether the gene of interest is there
or not. Within any given test subjects…as you start
with with the thermal cycler…which is over here
actually. And so this machine goes through many different temperatures,
which helps with the DNA amplification. After that reaction is completed, then we use it in a gel… because DNA is actually negatively
charged. And so I you run electricity, the DNA will
naturally go towards the positive charge. The way
that DNA is separated on this gel is by size.
The smaller pieces of DNA move a bit faster in the gel. And the
larger pieces DNA take a longer time. And so the larger
pieces of DNA are going to be closer to where the
samples started. This one… this gene actually that I’m testing for is a fluorescent gene that’s been inserted into the neurons. And so this is determining whether their neurons will be fluorescent or not. We know so little about how the brain responds to addiction and what changes in the brain can lead to
addiction. And I think understanding this underlying processes are going to
help us to eventually help people overcome
addiction, because addiction it’s really a disease. Every day
you’re kind of learning that we don’t know this…but it could
actually really help humans if we did. And so that’s where at our jobs as scientists are is to help people. People aren’t just going to hand you things generally… Like you know that’s what happens in like TV shows, in the movies…like somebody’s discovered all of a sudden just…you know walking down street, but that’s… that’s how life is. Nobody would have
given me a position in a research lab just being like, “She looks like she could be good at research.” I had to go to my professor and ask, “Hey are there any positions in your
lab? Or do you know of any labs that do have positions, because I’m very interested?”
Being your own advocate is a very important thing to learn in any career path and it’s definitely helped
me in science so far. (MUSIC) (MUSIC) (MUSIC) (MUSIC) (MUSIC) (MUSIC)

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