Biobanks and more babies!

My internship at BANGL is coming to an end for the summer, but I have learned valuable skills about research and working in a group environment.

BANGL emphasizes learning on a group and individual level. Dr. Drury and the other researchers in the lab are constantly encouraging engagement with the research and individual growth. This summer I was tasked with completing the preliminary steps for developing a biobank for the maternal samples we collect. A biobank is a collection of human biological samples and medical information about donors, which are stored for long periods of times and are used for research studies. The purpose of the biobank is to increase the availability and access to biological samples and health information for use in research. This project increased my understanding of the study, by not only reading the protocols, consent forms, and other materials, but actively working on them and modifying the language to incorporate the biobanking changes. After researching biobanking and creating specific changes with the help of Dr. Drury, I presented my work at one of the weekly lab meeting. It was helpful to receive feedback about the proposed changes and hear suggestions to improve the effectiveness of the project. I was able to work independently on this project, but received guidance from others.

My learning has not been limited to my work on my personal project. I have also learned more lab specific tasks. Because the study is longitudinal, there is engagement with participants at different time points. When infants enrolled in the study are 18 months, we conduct an interview with the mom to understand the mother-child dyadic relationship so far, the behavior of the child, and the feelings of the mom. One of the research assistants in the lab trained the new members how to effectively and professionally conduct the visit. The questionnaires ask personal information making it important to be empathetic yet professional. Before my first visit, I was nervously going over each step to make sure I would not overlook any component. When the mother and her child arrived for the visit, I reviewed the checklist and began. I felt a sense of accomplishment when the visit was finished. I was able to answer the questions the mom had throughout the visit and conduct the entire visit even though this was my first visit.

Everyday I look forward to coming to work and everyday I leave feeling like I have learned something about research in general, my peers, the study, maternal health, or child development. I am proud to work in a lab that is filled with diverse people that share the common goal of assessing how maternal prenatal and life experiences can affect child development. I hope that mothers recognize their contribution to improving child health outcomes. I am still unsure of how research will play a role in my career long-term, but right now I am seeing the progress and the impact that creating new knowledge has and I feel empowered.

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