Alexandra Grillos - England
My summer was spent at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), in their Equine Pregnancy Laboratory, under Dr. Mandi De Mestre. When I first reached out to the RVC, it was because of my great interest in reproductive physiology, and equine medicine. My project combined multiple interests of mine, including genetics as well. The laboratory was studying the genetics of early pregnancy loss (0-65 days of gestation) in Thoroughbred mares. For the past five years, veterinarians across the UK had been sending embryos to the Equine Pregnancy Laboratory that had died within the first 65 days of pregnancy due to unknown causes. Once arriving at the RVC, tissues from these embryos would be taken and DNA isolated from them for genetic testing. I was fortunate enough to take part in this step of the process and learned so much about embryology from one of the reproductive residents who studied there.
Prior to this summer, I had not had very much research experience, and I did not know what it was like to work in a formal laboratory setting. The team at the RVC’s Equine Pregnancy Laboratory taught me so many invaluable skills. I learned not only how to run various laboratory tests such as DNA isolation and qPCR, but they also rounded out my learning experience by showing me how to properly keep a laboratory notebook, and how to present research papers. I even had the opportunity to read and present a paper at a journal club, where researchers from across many various laboratories at the RVC attended and asked questions about what I had learned. This was a challenge that I had not faced before, but something that I feel truly expanded and benefited my education.
Working at the RVC showed me what it was like to truly be surrounded by a diverse scientific community. On a daily basis, I was interacting with laboratory technicians, fellow veterinary students, Ph.D.’s, and veterinary residents. Additionally, the RVC had a culture that shared information and questions among other laboratories, and I saw how much there was to gain in science as a whole when a collaborative approach to learning is taken. No matter where you come from, all people have very different backgrounds and experiences and can contribute something different to a learning environment. I hope to take this mentality with me wherever I go in the future.
My times outside of the laboratory were incredible as well. I explored London and much of it’s surrounding areas, satisfying my love for the arts and history. From hiking the white cliffs of Dover to strolling the streets of Canterbury, there was never a dull moment. The people that I met at the RVC exposed me to everything that their city had to offer, and navigating such an urban setting also taught me many valuable lessons. I am so thankful for the time that I was able to spend at the RVC this summer. I will never forget the things that I learned, the places that I visited, and the people that I met. I am so thankful to the donors to UC Davis SVM Global Programs for giving me this opportunity that grew me so profoundly both personally and professionally.