2B Wednesday, November 28, 2012 The Statement --
THE JUNK DRAWER
Wednesday, November 282012 The Statement 7B
In vivo: How do students in biomedical research adjust to
by Jacob Axierad
from last week: sleep & ads
When do you usually go to sleep?
random student interview
Sleep is for the weak
3 a.m. or later
1 a.m. to 3 a.m.
9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
11 p.m. to
by kaitlin williams
Welcome to the Random
Student Interview, where we
didn't have time to draw you any
fucking pictures this week.
So I've got a confession to make.
This interview isn't really "ran-
It's true. Actually, I usually wait
outside of the Union, and try to
find someone who looks friendly
enough to talk to me, but it's way
too fucking cold for that.
So today I wandered the Union
and found you sitting here
looking friendly. It's totally
So I see your doing some sort of
biology work there. What do you
'want to go into?
I'm pre-dental. I actually find out
on Monday if I got in here.
Cool. I hope you do, but it might
be productive to talk about back-
up plans. Let's start brainstorm-
For both of us.
So, what are you going to do if
you don't get into dental school?
I would probably get a research
position for a year until I could
reapply so at least it would look
like I was doing something in the
It's the illusion of doing some-
But that's boring. These back-
Are you susceptible to ads?
Yes, I love them!
Yes, but I hate that I am
Some of the commercials are ok, but most just aggravate me. It's espe-
cially nice when I KNOW the commercials are going to be well-funded, well
thought-out ones at that, like during the Super Bowl and Olympics. I just
got the Hopper from DISH however, and you haven't LIVED until you've
watched TV without commercials
-matt, regarding "Why I love ads"
up plans are fake because we're
both obviously going to be wildly
successful individuals so we can
OK then. I'd go develop an alter-
nate personality in Las Vegas.
Wow, you're really going for it
I'd become a card counter and win
millions of dollars and retire early.
I feel like with a job like that,
you'd need a nickname. What
would your nickname be?
I would go for ... The Electric
That's so great. I think you
should use that in dental school
as well. You could be Dr. Electric
Pussycat. Not that you need to
go to dental school anymore.
You know, I think I could buy
enough teeth whitening treat-
ments to be happy for life with the
kind of money I'll be making, so
you know what? I don't need to go.
I think I could just start a ring of
blackjack card counters.
Would you have room for me?
But I'm not very good at math. I
can't count cards.
You could be our accountant.
Yeah, accountants don't use
numbers. I could be the journal-
ist who throws the police off
your tail by printing misinfor-
mation about your operations.
I'd pretend to be scoping you
guys out, but really I'd be on
your side, protecting you from
the media and the law.
I'd print an article that you
moved to Atlantic City, but really
you'd still be in Vegas, living
under another alias.
That's a great idea.
Smoke and mirrors. Damn,
that got out there. So ... let's
talk about Christmas. Oh wait,
should Ihave said "the holidays"
or whatever? How do you feel
about people saying "Happy
As opposed to "Merry Christmas?"
Like I'm Jewish and I don't care.
It's kind of like the same senti-
ment if someone says, "I'm pray-
ing for you." I don't believe in that,
but if it's something that means
something to you then it's a nice
That's nice. I wish everybody
had that idea. So anyway, on to
more important stuff: presents.
Yeah. What about them?
I kind of feel like this might be
my last year to get some good
Yeah, well what I started doing
was going to the mall and taking
pictures of things I want and send-
ing them to my parents.
Subtle. Real subtle.
Yeah. So I have a photo journal of
my wish list this year.
See I was thinking about just
posting things on Facebook like
"Man, I could really use some
money or an iPod."
Yeah. You should. Do it. Or just be
less subtle like me and text it.
With a name like The Electric
Pussycat, I wouldn't expect any-
-Lauren is an LSA senior.
nside a large white box there is an oper-
ant chamber, housing a rat with black
and white hair.
As the rat scurries, it looks this way and
that, a tourist observing foreign surround-
ings, oblivious to the adjacent monitor track-
ing electrical signals that emanate from the
tips of wires inserted into its brain.
The monitor, known as a bank of amplifi-
ers, enhances the sound of distinct neurons,
each of which makes a crackling sound as it
appears on screen.
Researchers listen to these neurons to
test algorithms in the rat's brain circuitry
that are used, according to Joshua Berke,
an associate professor of psychology and
neuroscience, in the service of "decid-
ing." Results aid in the understanding of
the core neural circuitry that underlies
human diseases and disorders such as
Parkinson's disease, Obsessive-compul-
sive Disorder, Tourette syndrome and
These experiments are common for the
Berke Lab. And at the University, which as
of September spends $1.24 billion annu-
ally on research, professors and students
alike devote countless hours to laborato-
ries scattered across campus, from East
Hall to the Biomedical Science Research
Yet, when many labs require live animal
subjects, which can range from mice to dogs
to rabbits, what is the adjustment process
like for a student unaccustomed to working
with animals, some of whom are killed by the
end of an experiment?
According to Berke, those who choose to
work with animals are self-selecting.
"I think everyone findsthat they enjoy and
are comfortable with some kinds of experi-
ments and that you don't want to do other
kinds of experiments," Berke said. "People
find their natural niche."
Moreover, students are given full warn-
ing about what they're getting into during
the interview process, Berke said. He added
that if a studentwas uncomfortable or unable
to deal with animals, there are always other
positions available in the lab.
But no matter how mentally prepared you
are, the first time you watch an animal die
can be shocking.
"You just kind of have to deal with it," said
University alum Steven Kiss, who induced
heart attacks in dogs and rabbits while work-
ing in a cardiovascular pharmacology lab
that tested new drugs for people with heart
conditions. "Definitely the first few times
were really surprising."
In 2010, statistics from the United States
Department of Agriculture showed that
about 1.1 million animals were used in labora-
tory settings, excluding animals such as rats,
mice, birds and fisl that are not covered by
the Animal Welfare Act, though these same
statistics estimated that 25 million of such
animals are used annually, comprising 95
percent of all animals used in U.S. research.
Kiss's lab observed dogs and rabbits that
had been given an oral medication. Some
animals were given the drug for a seven-day
period, while others for a 14-day period. The
goal, Kiss said, is to determine how well a
drug protects the animal from a heart attack,
similar to how a person taking heart medi-
Before students ever handle animals
they are required to take a series of courses
through the Unit for - Laboratory Animal
Medicine to meet standards set by the Uni-
versity Committee on Use and Care of Ani-
mals and the Department of Occupational
Safety & Environmental Health.
While all students go through ULAM
before beginning lab work, each lab has its
own set of protocols it submits to ULAM for
approval. As a result, ULAM can tailor its
instructions to ensure that each student's
training is animal-specific to his or her lab.
For Kiss, this meant being trained with
she has taken at the University.
"It's always frightening coming from no
experience and then having someone watch '
what you do," Buttigieg said. "But I think it's
the best way to learn."
The University's Office of the Vice Presi-
dent for Research states on its website that
the University is "committed to the humane
and ethical treatment of all animals used in
research and training."
Yet there are naysayers, notably the Peo-
ple for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,
which deems animal research unnecessary.
On its website, PETA cites an article
from The Journal of the American Medi-
cal Association: "Patients and physicians
should remain cautious about extrapolating
the finding of prominent animal research to
the care of human disease ... poor replication
of even high-quality animal studies should
be expected by those who conduct clinical
Berke said this is not the case.
"The reason why we're funded by the fed-
eral government is because we're trying to
understand how we can intervene to allevi-
ate horrible diseases," he said.
Furthermore, as Berke views it, animal
treatment has only improved over the years
since he started in research.
"It's now increasingly standard to give
even rats and mice enriched environments
with toys to play with," he said. "Ten, 15 years
ago, only monkeys might have gotten that."
"(The animals) have 24-hour access to
a vet," he said. "I would say three (to) five
times a day someone's checking in on them.
So they're living pretty well."
For Rackham student Daniel Castro, who
studies biopsychology in the Kent Berridge
Lab and looks at mice and rats to understand
aberrant motivational systems in the brain,
ethical treatment is a form of giving back.
"We want to make sure that the animals
experience the least amount of suffering
possible," Castro said. "We're using these
animals to do research to help people and
even to help animals. So we want them
to have the best experience we can give
Despite better conditions, many animal
subjects have limited life spans. For new-
comers to lab work, the transition process
continues, each student overcoming his or
her personal obstacles one test at a time.
"It takes a while to get used to," said LSA
senior Lily Zhang, who studies mice to learn
how synapses in the brain are formed. "Actu-
ally getting in and getting your hands in on
it, it's another experience."
cine might react.
He explained the initial difficulty of see-
ing an animal being put to death.
"Some of the dogs are so nice," he said.
"You'd be with them for two weeks and you'd
have to walk them and play with them, and
then on that fourteenth day it's like, damn.".
Yet Kiss emphasized he never dwelt on
"You've got to understand that you're
doing it for a good cause," he said. "It feels
LSA senior Emily Buttigieg's hands were
shaking the first time she dissected a mouse
during her freshmanyear at the University.
Her work in the Kalantry Lab examines
chromosome X-inactivation in mice embry-
os. Having learned from science textbooks
all through high school, this skill was dif-
ferent; it was hands-on and could only be
learned through trial and error, Buttigieg
canines and New Zealand white rabbits prior
to starting lab work.
"They go over how to handle the animal,
ways to hold it ... who to call if there's a prob-
lem," Kiss said. "They just go over every sin-
gle situation you would need."
For example, Buttigieg employs a tech-.
nique known as cervical dislocation to
remove mice embryos from the mother.
"We can't use the (traditional) gas because
that harms the embryos. So we use cervical
dislocation, which is a little difficult to learn
at first," she said.
She noted, however, that she was fortunate
tobe trained directly by Sundeep Kalantry, the
lab's principal investigator. This close atten-
tion made Buttigieg feel more comfortable
with the experiments when first starting out,
especially since she could have been trained
by an overworked graduate student with little
spare time to dedicate to undergraduates.
She said Kalantry's careful guidance was
key to her success in the lab, which she says
has taught her more than any science class