The purpose of this project is for the student to continue to learn how to record from neurons in brain slices using visually-guided, whole-cell, patch-clamp techniques. The student will learn how to use a patch-clamp amplifier and its associated software begin trying to collect neurophysiological data. We begin with understanding ohm’s law and applying this knowledge to a “model cell” (a resister and capacitor in parallel) to begin collecting simulated data. After learning the software, we begin creating voltage-current plots to calculate the input resistance of the model cell. The student will learn how to make electrodes and fill them with an electrolyte solution for neuronal recording. The student will learn how to use the microscope to visualize neurons in brain slices and lower the electrode onto the cell to obtain an actual recording. These are not trivial techniques, so a great deal of focus will continue to be spent on the technical aspects while a graduate student and/or technician actually prepares the healthy brain slices for recording. Eventually, the student will learn how to prepare brain slices, but not until there is adequate mastery of the procedures involved in using the neurophysiology rig (microscope, amplifier and associated software, etc).
Tasks and Responsibilities
The student will learn a tremendous amount about conducting advanced neurobiological research, which has enhanced his understanding of what it takes to succeed in graduate school. He began learning from me by taking independent study. Weekly meetings have provided the theoretical framework, and this will continue in the summer. Exposure to graduate level research projects will allow the student to develop an understanding for research procedures, such as the planning and carrying out of research, data collection and interpretation, and ultimately writing up results in the form of a poster or manuscript for publication. Additional skills to be learned include reading and writing in a scientific format, working as a research team to achieve goals, and time management. Acquisition of these concepts will make the student stronger academically and will provide the experience necessary for continued growth as is evident in the high rate of undergraduate research students in the lab that continue their education in graduate or professional school.