Ms. Catie Riccelli

Recipient of the Dr. & Mrs. Savio L-Y. Woo Research Scholarship

CatieRiccelli

Using the Robot

I am very thankful for the opportunity the Dr. and Mrs. Savio L-Y. Woo Research Scholarship provided for me this summer. Through this scholarship, I was able to work as a laboratory observer at the Musculoskeletal Research Center (MSRC) in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. While I did not conduct a study of my own, I was granted opportunities to learn and to observe at Dr. Woo’s lab. Over the duration of the summer, I gained invaluable knowledge and learned important skills that I will be able to use in the future.

My first experiences within the lab taught me how research is conducted and how to operate lab equipment. My first assignment was to participate in my mentor’s, Mr. Kwang Kim, project, “Characterization of fiber morphology of the SIS hydrogel,” by preparing SIS hydrogels and pure collagen gels for the computational morphological analysis of their SEM images. The purpose of the project was to investigate the benefits provided by the fiber morphology of the SIS hydrogel found in a previous study conducted by Mr. Kim, versus a pure collagen gel. I was involved in the preparation of the gels. After obtaining the gel digest, I fixed, washed, and dehydrated the gels in a series of processes.

While in the labs, I learned how to operate lab equipment and tools such as how to set up the Instron machine, recognize and properly use instruments for specimen dissection, and how to handle biological and chemical supplies safely and respectfully. Because of this exposure, I will be able to skillfully use my experiences in any future laboratory experiences.

During my work with Mr. Kim’s project, I read many scientific articles relating to this project and on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). I had to learn new terminology and skills in order to comprehend my reading since I had never critically analyzed scientific journals. I learned how to effectively search for articles that related to my project and, soon, I began to recognize the names of prominent journals, terms and techniques related to my topic. In the lab, we conducted weekly journal meetings in which we read an article chosen by a mentor and presented by an intern. During the meetings, I acquired the important skill of critically reading articles and how to create and give PowerPoint presentations on scientific information and interpret data.

While at the MSRC, I was responsible for ensuring that the robotics room remained clean and organized. I was able to participate in and assist with others’ projects in the laboratory. In addition to the technical aspects of my summer experiences, I learned about teamwork as well as independence. The MSRC emphasized the process of proper and “smart research” – the ultimate result one attempts to achieve. However, the process of working toward that goal is the skill that I learned to appreciate.

The scholarship provided me with an invaluable experience at the MSRC. I am very honored to have spent my time in Dr. Woo’s lab. I am also thankful for the guidance I received from members at the MSRC and Mr. Kim. I want to thank Dr. and Mrs. Woo, the ASIAM, and the MSRC for providing me with the opportunity to expand my knowledge about the process of research and to mature as an individual this summer.