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Day in the Life of a Gerstner Sloan Kettering Student: Coffee, Lab Meetings, Central Park, and More
As a student at the Gerstner Sloan Kettering (GSK) Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, you will join the laboratory of one of more than 130 scientists from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with expertise in cancer biology, genomics, immunology, structural biology, and more.
What does that look like on a day-to-day basis? We spoke with four young scientists to find out. Scroll down and click through the slideshows to get an inside look.
Caroline Gleason starts her day with coffee. She says her research is focused on a group of cancer drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors and how they work, especially in patients with liposarcoma. She enrolled in GSK because she wanted a translational program in an interesting and exciting city. Scroll to the right for more »
Caroline heads to the gym at around 7:15 a.m. She says, "if I don't go before lab, I will not go at all." After that, she'll lead a lab meeting at 9 a.m.
Caroline gives us a tour of her bay in the lab of Andrew Koff in Rockefeller Research Laboratories. Across the courtyard, she points out GSK's main housing building. If you decide to live there and your lab is at Rockefeller, you'll have "the shortest commute ever," Caroline says.
Caroline eats lunch outside with Marimar Benitez De La Vega (a third-year GSK student), Juliana Delgado (a second-year GSK student), and Klavdija Bastl (a first-year GSK student).
"When the weather's still nice and I can get out while it's light out, I like to bring my dog to Central Park and let her run around," Caroline says.
Dinner is made! After dinner, Caroline's task is to read through her paper before she submits at the end of the week. "Once I'm done with that, I have a large backlog of episodes of Real Housewives that really, really needs my attention — it's important work," Caroline says.
“Every other week, we have a joint meeting with Viviana Risca’s lab from Rockefeller,” Caroline says. These meetings are a great chance to share knowledge. "My coworker caught this hilarious snap of Andy Koff trying to help me explain how we developed a method for quantifying different immune cell and senescence markers in biopsy samples from liposarcoma patients.”
“This picture was taken at the Molecular Cytology Core Facility at MSK,” Caroline says. “Our lab is interested in taking what we’ve learned from liposarcoma and translating it into breast cancer. So today, I’m using one of the core’s widefield microscopes to look for different markers of cellular senescence in a panel of breast cancer cell lines that have been treated with CDK4/6 inhibitors.”
Stella Paffenholz is focused on finding new treatment options for people with ovarian cancer. "Being interested in cancer research, I just couldn't imagine a better place to pursue my graduate degree," she says. "Memorial Sloan Kettering is at the forefront of scientific discovery — both in basic and also clinical research." Scroll to the right for more »
"What I enjoy most about science is that it is a team sport. Everybody in my lab is very helpful and collaborative," Stella says. "Discussing complex data with postdocs or my fellow GSK students often leads to new insights."
"The most exciting thing about working in the lab is that no day is the same as the previous one," says Stella. "Results received on one day inform how the next day is going to look."
"In my view, grad school can be compared to a challenging hike," says Stella. "The way up can be very strenuous: Experiments fail along the way, and sometimes you have to take a detour around unforeseen obstacles. But once you've made it to the top and enjoy the view — once you've generated interesting data and you're the only person in the world to know bout this cool new finding — it is the most rewarding experience that one can imagine."
“In my PhD, I am working on ovarian cancer with the aim to find new treatment options for this deadly disease,” Stella says. “In the picture, I am cultivating ovarian cancer cells that carry different mutations that are also found in cancer patients. We are trying to elucidate the role of these mutations in response to different drugs.”
“I enjoy spending time at the lab bench and actively performing the experiment to test out new hypotheses,” Stella says. “My work involves the use of genome engineering methods to model different mutations and study their effect on tumorigenesis. In the picture, I am validating the correct introduction of these mutations.”
“Outside of lab, I am a regular at Central Park, either on my bike or running,” Stella says. “I joined a running club, which is a great way to meet diverse people that share the common interest of staying active. In the picture I am on my way to win third place at the Central Park Duathlon.”
Ana Sanchez plating cells for a phosphate starvation recovery experiment. Scroll to the right for more »
Ana preparing protein samples for crystallization.
Ana explains what she's looking at on her computer screen: “This shows that the protein purification of wild-type and mutant proteins was successful, and I can now proceed to test the biochemical activity of each one.”
Ana explains that she is looking at the trays that she set up to screen for conditions suitable for protein crystallization.