The intern life: Meet Christina Lee

| Written by rbruni
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High-school graduate Christina Lee has spent the last three and half months learning firsthand what it’s like to work at the lab bench in a major medical research institution. After graduating from Canyon Crest Academy in June of this year, Christina has spent this summer – before packing for college – interning in our NCI-designated Cancer Center with Jorge Moscat, Ph.D., and Maria Diaz-Meco, Ph.D., of the Cell Death and Survival Networks Program.

We asked Christina to share a little about herself and her time at the Institute—and she had plenty of fascinating things to say!

Tell us a little about yourself, Christina—what do you study, what grabbed your interest in biological science, and what made you choose Sanford-Burnham for your internship?

When I was little, I had an insatiable appetite for reading. I would read whatever my eyes could find, and that ranged anywhere from the back of the cereal box to an illustrated medical dictionary.

I remember loving to read about science because I was fascinated with the “why.” Even today, I want to understand how the world works and I feel that science holds the answers. Simply put, biological sciences are the foundational explanation of why everything living IS.

When searching for an internship for this year, I was drawn to Sanford-Burnham because of the 10-year vision. The vision comes from the best of intentions—from research, the power to cure. It’s simple, but it demonstrates genuine interest in improving the quality of life.

You’re about to start college. Where are you going? What are you looking forward to the most, the least, and do you think anything in particular about your internship has helped to prepare you for college?

I’m starting at UCLA in the fall as a Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major—and yes, that is a single major!

I’m excited to finally be able to take charge of my education and to start learning in-depth about areas that interest me. Not so much looking forward to the inevitable dependency on coffee though.

I think, more than anything, my time at Sanford-Burnham has given me an invaluable perspective on how quickly the scientific community is moving forward. Not to mention, the solid foundation in research Dr. Diaz-Meco and Dr. Moscat have laid out for me has been incredible. I now have the knowledge of how a research laboratory works, which I realize many other undergraduates may not have quite yet.

What’s been the most challenging part of your internship? What’s been your favorite? Was there anything that surprised you about being in the laboratory?

I’ve really loved being able to learn something from every postdoc. They are amazingly helpful and open! They’ve answered all of my questions and shown me so many things that I would’ve never thought I’d do at this age—CONFOCAL MICROSCOPES ARE GREAT—and they’re so willing to teach.

I’ve made a few mistakes, but it’s part of the learning process. I’ve been through a variety of different lab environments now, but it never ceases to surprise me how many times you have to fail before you may get a desired result. Or you may never get your desired result, but you have to move forward from that and adjust your perspective. The postdocs I’ve worked with this summer have helped me realize that’s just as important to remember outside of the laboratory as in it.

Where do you picture yourself in 10 years? What do you imagine you’ll be doing?

Wow, I’ll be 27/28. I’ve wanted to be a pediatrician since I was 6, so ideally, I’d be doing my years in residency. Or perhaps, I’ll be doing research, or maybe I’ll be in public health…

I’m not entirely sure yet! I may have been working toward becoming a pediatrician, but I’m keeping my options open—the world is my oyster and there’s so much more to know before I decide. I do know that I’d like my career to be related to medicine in some way.

You live in gorgeous Southern California. When you’re not studying, or interning, what do you do for fun?

I have so much gratitude for the fact that I get to live so close to the ocean, so I try to take advantage of that when I can. Otherwise, you can probably find me trying to check local restaurants off my “restaurants to try” list, spending time with friends and family, playing music, or watching too many TED videos for my own good.

And just one for fun—what expression do you say way too much? Or, what’s the single worst food you’ve ever eaten?

Jellyfish. Definitely jellyfish. The texture is so incredibly difficult to get over. Actually, the fried foods at the Del Mar Fair can also get a little… interesting at times.

Thank you Christina for such a thoughtful and insightful glimpse into your time at Sanford-Burnham! We wish you lots of luck on your journey—and hope maybe to see you again…Postdocs are always needed!