It’s difficult to imagine how an internship in a research lab could be similar to an episode of Lost, but that’s the reality for junior Brian Carter, and it’s one of the reasons he enjoys his so much.
“I think it’s really gratifying to do research and ask questions, and finally come upon an answer,” Carter said of his internship. “But, of course, every answer comes with two more questions, so it’s kind of like Lost, where every episode you get an answer, but you also get two more questions.”
Carter, a biochemistry major, works in a lab at the Oregon Health Sciences University in the Hearing Research Center. The lab’s primary goal is to study ototoxicity, a condition in which one’s ears are damaged (affecting hearing, balance, or both) as a side effect of certain drugs, most of which are generally used as antibiotics.
“For me, that was a very personal field to try and get myself into because it’s something that’s affected me,” Carter said. “When I was just a couple months old, I had a basic bacterial infection and took antibiotics, and later we learned that I had hearing loss and I’ve worn hearing aids ever since. That’s the story with a lot of the other researchers there, too.”
Carter sought out this internship opportunity after being informed of the possibility by a member of the Alexander Graham Bell Foundation, from whom he had received a scholarship. He is now an active member of the lab, and works with people who have come from around the world to participate in the research, including from Japan, China, and Russia.
The internship has acted as a catalyst for Carter to consider a wider variety of paths for his future.
“It’s opened my eyes to my options in terms of what I can do with my education,” Carter said. “I was always set on being a doctor, so stepping myself out of my comfort zone and into opportunity has shown me that my foundation here (at UP) can allow me to do things I would have never even considered.”
Not only has it begun to steer him in a new direction, but his internship experience has also given Carter the confidence to continue progressing as a scholar in his field.
“For me, being a junior undergraduate student, it was very intimidating at first to work with PhDs and people from Harvard or China,” Carter said. “I’ve had to learn to know that my thoughts and my works are just as legitimate as theirs, and there have been times when they’ve been wrong and I’ve had to have the courage to say (so).”
Carter’s internship has acted as a learning experience that has contributed to his overall philosophy about biochemistry as a somewhat of a holistic field of study.
“Biochem has so much to do with learning about the body as a whole,” Carter said. “Every detail of our lives comes together to form a larger picture, and that’s just so amazing to me.”
Story by Clare Duffy