International Research Center for Neurointelligence, Takeuchi Lab

by Kyle Stevenson

My time at the University of Tokyo this summer was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had. Everyone at the lab I was working in was very welcoming and I felt right at home. On my last day the members of my lab even had a going-away party for me. My postdoc, Dina, was especially helpful and was a central part of why my experience was so positive. She was very patient with getting me up to speed on the proper procedures and getting used to the equipment, and I had many insightful conversations with her regarding her career path and advice on improving my work in the lab. Regarding my work in the lab, my responsibilities naturally grew as time went on, but in the first few weeks I mainly did culture medium exchanges as well as reseeding the cells after they had propagated to a certain point. This didn’t take too long and was a good starting task for me which Dina talked me through very well. It built on the little prior experience I already had with lab work while letting me learn new techniques as well. As time passed, I transitioned into doing more staining, and I also helped with taking pictures of our stained cells. We used THUNDER imaging software to help take the images, and I gained good experience practicing immunostaining. This is mostly what the extent of my work was, although towards the very end we did do a bit with cell samples frozen in liquid nitrogen that we then used a slicing machine to take thin samples of which was interesting. I was very excited by what I was able to accomplish in my time at the lab, as the results we were able to get were really impressive and are likely going to be published.

With all the resources I had, this summer was an amazing opportunity for me to get real-world experience working on research that greatly interested me. Not only was I able to get a lot of hands-on experience working in a research lab for the first time, but Dina also set me up with a couple other IRCN researchers in different labs to talk to them about their work for a bit as well. As such, I was able to be exposed to a wide variety of research work and see what topics particularly interested me. Dina was doing some work writing for a chapter for a book on the side during my time in Tokyo, and she taught me a bit about how the research publication process works as well. Altogether, this program has been a great chance for me to be exposed to a wide range of knowledge in the research world, and my work this summer has even helped me secure a spot working in a lab here at Harvard for this semester, where I am working in a lab that has me using the immunostaining skills I gained this summer to do imaging on kidney organoids.

Ultimately, words can not fully express how amazing my experience this summer was, and without the support of FUTI I would not have been able to take advantage of such a unique and exciting opportunity. I was able to work on extremely interesting things in the lab as well as explore Tokyo all while being immersed in Japanese culture. As someone with Japanese ancestry, that aspect was something I particularly enjoyed. I have nothing but the highest praises for this program, and all of my peers at Harvard have seemed quite amazed at all I was able to accomplish this summer. I am very grateful to FUTI for giving me the financial support I needed to be able to spend my summer in Japan. I will absolutely be encouraging my peers here to visit and spend time in Japan in the future, and I hope that I personally will be able to some day return as well, maybe even back to the University of Tokyo!