Meet Divya Mahesh, a Senior majoring in Psychology, with minors in Chemistry and Neuroscience. She is currently working in Dr. Laurie Sanders’ laboratory at Duke University School of Medicine. The Sanders lab studies Parkinson’s Disease and its primary focus is on the role of genome integrity and DNA repair in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s.
Tell us about your research. My work is part of a larger project in the lab that looks into the presence of nuclear DNA damage in LRRK2-associated Parkinson’s Disease and the effect that the modulation of two kinase proteins has on this nuclear DNA damage. I use lab techniques such as cell culture, Western blotting, and immunocytochemistry to study these phenomena in patient-derived fibroblast cells.
What do you like most? While I enjoy learning the laboratory techniques, my favorite part is the more theoretical aspect of research. I like thinking through the various potential causes of an observed phenomenon and using those hypotheses to develop a research plan. This is particularly important when troubleshooting inconclusive results or failed experiments.
Has this experience changed your ideas about research? Through this research experience, I have realized that science really is one long process of trial and error. At first, I would get really upset when my experiments failed because I took it as an indication of my aptitude for science. I am now learning that failure is a natural part of the scientific process and it actually occurs more often than one thinks.
Our Undergraduate Research Series features spotlights on our Psychology and Neuroscience majors and minors who are conducting undergraduate research with our faculty! We believe strongly that undergraduate experiences are greatly enriched by inquiry and discovery through undergraduate research. Research experiences allow students to better understand literature, determine areas of interest, discover their passion for research, continue on to graduate studies, and to jump start their careers as researchers. If you are an undergraduate who is interested in pursuing research experiences, we offer PSYC and NSCI 395 as an opportunity to work side-by-side with graduate students and faculty members on cutting-edge psychological and neuroscience research. We also recommend you visit the Office for Undergraduate Research to find research opportunities, apply for research funding, and for helpful tools and advice. Research opportunities abound at UNC – find one that works for you!