High school senior Benjamin Shaer reflects on his summer in the VIC lab.

This summer I had the privilege to work as a summer research student at the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) in Boston for eight weeks. Going in on the first day with no prior research experience I was unsure what the day would bring, but I soon found an environment filled with comradery, mentorship, and a pure passion for science. Through the weekly “Tea-Time” on Mondays and regular lab gatherings, I started to feel comfortable learning from the experiences of researchers and other students and seeking their guidance. Dr. Mark Poznansky, director of VIC, provided me with generous mentorship. We met frequently to delve into vital scientific principles, including objective result analysis, thorough documentation of lab activities, and the importance of avoiding assumptions.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Fatma Dogan, I worked on the Nanoplasmid Project. The project’s goal is to develop a novel, safe, and effective islet-targeted gene delivery system to restore and enhance immune protection of the pancreatic islets. I started my time at the lab shadowing Dr. Dogan and learning key laboratory and data analysis skills. Eventually, my work entailed performing transfections in cell culture and finding new ways to measure the transfection efficiency.

My experience this summer will forever stay with me as my first step into what I hope will be a long journey in the pursuit of science. This summer was an unforgettable adventure, and I will always remember the incredible people that were part of it. As my work was filled with early morning and late nights, I learned from the example of my colleagues that science isn’t simply a job; it’s a lifestyle. I look forward to continuing to work with these inspiring people on such vital research.