Experience Type: Research/Lab
Experience Name: Research in Lyme Disease
Hours: 540 hours
Most Meaningful: Yes
I developed risk models for Lyme disease. We collected ticks and rodents in the nature preserve and recorded human behavior and ecological data. We extracted DNA from the ticks and the rodents to confirm the presence of a specific pathogen. The rodents’ tissues were tested for the Lyme spirochete. Our results indicated a risk for human infection well above the established threshold. We also determined the spatial distribution of ticks and prevalence of Borrelia burgdorfer. We predicted that the prevalence of Lyme disease will increase, posing a public health concern. Our findings were presented at a conference, and we submitted a manuscript to Emerging Infectious Diseases.
This experience not only enriched my appreciation for research in medicine but also helped me grow as a person. Prior to joining the lab, I did not understand how much effort it would take to complete a project successfully. Once I realized the commitment, I spent an entire summer training in the field and the lab, during which my interest in the research grew tremendously. Studying different aspects of the disease allowed me to view medicine differently. I noticed how a disease process is affected by several factors worthy of consideration to a physician, such as the transmission vector and ecological influences. Dr. Garruto recognized my dedication and selected me to oversee both a field team and a lab team. I felt uneasy at first taking on a leadership role that required daunting logistical tasks like teaching field techniques and laboratory protocols to over 20 students. Yet I constantly emphasized the importance of teamwork and learned to prioritize tasks when confronted with many issues simultaneously. He invited me to co-present our findings at the Lyme Disease Conference. I also won the Undergraduate Research Award! By providing a better understanding of the disease mechanism, research can facilitate the development of effective treatment option as well as precise method of diagnosis.