The summer scientist

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Summer in Florida is the time of year when college students typically take a break from their textbooks and head off to the beaches to enjoy barbecues and sunshine. For Seminole State of Florida Honor Student and rising University of Central Florida junior Mitchell Thomas it also means participating in one-of-a-kind, hands-on lab research at Sanford-Burnham in Lake Nona.

Our Lake Nona campus is one hour away from the nearest beach, but there's much more to be found in our labs than sand and sunscreen. On the recommendation of a college professor, Mitchell applied for an internship at Sanford-Burnham in Lake Nona in order to learn applicable research techniques. Mitchell has been working steadily in Dr. Tim Osborne's metabolic disease lab, which focuses on the fundamental processes of gene regulation in the control and management of metabolic homeostasis. Since late March of this year, Mitchell works side by side with research scientists on experiments with fatty-acid synthesis and cholesterol homeostasis. "One thing that has surprised me the most in the lab," he explained, "is the unwavering motivation researchers have. Some procedures and techniques can be very time consuming, meticulous, precise, and the results may not always be favorable." For Mitchell, the internship has provided an intimate perspective on the rigorous nature of scientific research. "True to the scientific method, researchers will continue on through trial and error, working very hard for their projects."

[caption id="attachment_19068" align="aligncenter" width="527"]mitchelthomasquote2 Research associate and lab manager Peter Phelan (left) and Mitchell Thomas in the lab[/caption]

In addition to learning basic molecular-biology lab techniques involving Western blots and tissue culture, Mitchell worked on the routine processing and genotyping of tissues. Research associate and lab manager Peter Phelan explains that the internship experience is not only a boon for budding student scientists but a mutually rewarding collaboration. "Mitchell is a valuable asset in our lab," he said, "and he enabled our research to progress at a more rapid pace. In my experience, the Sanford-Burnham intern program has proven to be a highly beneficial relationship, where interns receive valuable hands-on insight into the research process and, as a result, they can be highly capable research assistants."

After earning his Biomedical Science degree, Mitchell plans to complete medical school to practice anesthesiology. He believes that combining his classwork with lab work is a crucial supplement to his science education, "This internship allows me to work closely under researchers in this particular field, helping me to forge a solid foundation and understanding of the biological sciences from their perspective."

[caption id="attachment_19066" align="aligncenter" width="527"]Mitchell Thomas Aspiring anesthesiologist Mitchell Thomas[/caption]

Mitchell completes his internship at the end of the summer but he feels the experience will leave a long-lasting impression, "This experience has taught me to think more like a scientist. There is much that can be learned from lectures and textbooks in biological sciences, but I believe that a true appreciation for that knowledge can be gained from being in the lab."