Babies and Buccal

Hey y’all! So far, I have learned a lot while working at BANGL. My understanding of the objectives and operations of the lab has increased and my awareness of what contributes to effective research has been expanded.

I was initially intrigued to work in BANGL because the lab incorporates social experimentation with biological analysis. As previously explained, the lab is currently working on a longitudinal study to understand how the mother-child relationship can lead to improved developmental outcomes. In the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth developed the strange situation experiment to examine attachment relationships between the mother and child. The lab incorporates the classic psychology test into the research by using the procedure during 12 month visits with the children. The baby experiences different situations with and without mom and with and without a stranger. The stranger’s presence acts as a stressor for the infant. Before about 7 months babies do not show a preference for the caregiver or stranger; however, as infants age, they develop selective preferences for their caregiver and are reluctant to interact with the stranger. This preference is an initial sign of attachment relationships of infants. The overall goal of the experiment is to assess the reunion of the mom and baby to evaluate the attachment and recovery the child experiences. I am currently being trained to participate as the stranger in the experiment. After observing other research assistants conduct the experiment, I am excited to directly contribute to the social interactions with the participants. I will admit, I am a little nervous to act as the stranger, because at times infants may get uncomfortable when their mother is not there. Nevertheless, I look forward to improving with experience and learning how to assess the types of relationships between the infants and mothers.

Another dimension of the lab involves biological samples. I am now trained to extract DNA from buccal swabs. During participant interactions, buccal swabs, similar to plastic qtips, are used to rub the inside of the check and collect buccal cells that contain DNA from both the mother and her child. Using established protocols I extract the DNA from the cells and then quantify the amount of DNA as well as the purity of the sample. When I was initially trained, the fellow lab member helped me assess my results and noted they met the standards for a good extraction. I am excited to continue performing extractions and to improve my skill and confidence in the procedure. Hopefully, I will be able to train new members in the future.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I enjoy the various approaches of research BANGL incorporates in the lab. Beyond that, I value the teamwork needed to ensure the lab runs smoothly. Each person in the lab is responsible for particular tasks that are contingent upon one another. I have conducted research for my personal summer project of creating an amendment to the consent form in order to develop a biobank of samples. However, weekly lab meetings assess individual lab member’s progress, and evaluate the progress of the lab as a whole. While each member of the lab has specific assignments within the lab, everyone contributes to the big picture goal of the research and I am proud to be a new member of this team.

I will update you on my progress with the babies and the buccal!

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