UTSIP Laboratory of Signal Transduction

by Cecilia Lei

I have never thought about study abroad before as such a great experience, but that changed after getting financial support from Friends of Tokyo. Even though it was my first time in Japan and Japanese University, I got immediately intrigued by how beautiful the University of Tokyo was and how people here were nice and hospitable.

I joined the Suzuki Sensei’s Lab under the integrated biosciences department at the graduate studies of the University of Tokyo in Chiba. Our main focus was on studying autophagic mechanism in yeast cell model. Autophagy is a cellular recycling mechanism within cell that help the cell to get rid of endogenous or exogenous sources of waste materials. I also studied autophagy in my college, but I only studied disease model but not the underlying mechanism behind this complex cellular mechanism.

I learned how to culture yeast cells for the first time in my life. I also mated yeast cells, which was super interesting but at the same time very time-consuming and stressful because of the transient nature of yeast cells. Given that yeasts are such small cells under light microscope, it took me more than an hour to conduct successful mating. One of the most amazing aspect of the lab was that I was able to master how to use the fluorescent microscope. Those genetically engineered cells with a mNeonGreen protein attaching to the outside of autophagosome, a double membraned organelle crucial in autophagy, I was able to use the microscope to take images of green cells and identify different morphological differences or number differences.

It might all seem easy, but every step in this research experience took a lot of work, practice, and attention. I failed several experiments the first time I tried to conduct them, and I even stayed up late at night in the lab in order to get positive results. Thankfully, everything paid off. I was able to give a presentation at the end of the research to other students and professors in the UTSIP program and that was really a rewarding experience since I got understandings and affirmations from my peers and teachers.

I was lucky enough to be selected into the UTSIP program and got funded by FUTI Scholarship not only in that I got research experience, but also I was able to use the scholarship and travel near Tokyo. My friend took me to Yokohama and we had a great experience in there since we went to an animal interacting place where we could pet different animals. We also went near the sea to see the beautiful view there.

Overall, I would really like to thank UTSIP for giving me this opportunity to let other people see my ability and work progress in search, but also I really appreciate the help and financial support from FUTI scholarship. If I had chance, I would definitely attend this program, or possibly trying to apply to the PhD program there in the University of Tokyo.