Mentor: Dr. Rochlin
My name is Jason Hwang and I am a member of Dr. William Rochlin's research team. I am currently a 4th year undergrad student from Loyola University of Chicago with a Biology major and Psychology minor. In this lab, we are studying axon guidance cues that are necessary for sensory innervation in embryonic development using rodents as the model organism. The geniculate ganglion (gg) and the trigeminal ganglion (trig) both innervate the tongue and are the primary sets of neurons that are studied. The gg supplies axons to the taste epithelium in fungiform papillae through the chorda tympani nerve while the non-taste epithelium is supplied by trig axons through the lingual nerve. The Rochlin lab has previously focused on understanding diffusible cues (cues that are secreted by cells in the pathway or target tissue). Although diffusible cues were shown to have an effect on axon guidance, additional studies on non-diffusible cues must be performed to fully explain how axons are able to follow a precise pathway to their targets. As a result, my project will focus on molecules bound to the cell, Ephs and ephrins.
Overall, this experience has been very positive as I have not only improved my understanding of axon guidance, but I also feel much more responsible than before. I feel as though this experience will help me with future work related jobs as working in a research lab requires a lot of discipline and devotion to what you are doing. I felt stress, accomplishment, and curiosity in Dr. Rochlin's lab and I feel like these are important emotions to experience for a person to grow. While I have made plenty of mistakes, these mistakes only made me work harder in avoiding the same mistakes and improve my skills. Based on my experience, I would definitely encourage other students to engage in research. However, research is not for everyone as the emotions and work load that you experience may be too much for some people. Research is a fun, exciting, and educational endeavor which requires a lot of commitment and the ability to accept failure.