Experience Reports (International Research Students) | 2016

Experience report

Anri Yamaguchi from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Period: From 05/09/2016 to 09/12/2016 (14 weeks)
Department: Molecular Pharmacokinetics (Department of Brain Function)

First of all, I cannot thank enough for the amazing opportunity to spend 14 weeks at Nagoya University, in Japan. My case is a little bit peculiar, since I am not a medical student, but a biomedical student and, as so, it wasn’t a clinical but a laboratorial clerkship. Moreover, I received a scholarship from my home university for the period I stayed at Nagoya University to develop a small and simple scientific project. As a result, I stayed the whole time at Professor Makoto Sawada’s laboratory, in the department of Molecular Pharmacokinetics (Department of Brain function). It was an amazing and incredible experience nevertheless.

During my stay at Nagoya, I was fortunately enough to stay at Higashiyama Dormitory, which was 5 minutes by walking from Professor Sawada’s laboratory and the subway station was also nearby, making it very easy and comfortable to live in Nagoya. Every person I was fortunately enough to meet at Nagoya University, including the research team, the dormitory and International Office staff, welcomed me so warmly and politely that almost made me feel I was at home. It was a great honor to meet each one of them and learn from such distinguished laboratory at this university.

Ever since the very first day, when I arrived at Nagoya University, I was allowed to try the methods by my own after some explanation and observing, which only contributed to enrich and improve my knowledge and technique as a researcher apprentice. The first thing that caught my attention was that everyone had an individual space to do their experiments, as well as their own set of pipettes (a laboratory tool to transfer volume, in microliter, of one solution to another). Moreover, every solution and tool was always perfectly clean and tidy in their respective places, making it so easy to work there. Everyone in the team was extremely kind and considerate, explaining every technique thoroughly and patiently and even checking time to time if everything in the experiment was alright. Even when I had made some mistakes, they was always so understanding and willing to help me fix the problem.

The very first thing I did was training the use of pipettes, the most basic and important ability for everyone who works in laboratories. I found it not only extremely useful but also essential, since it guarantees your ability, thus, any experimental error that may occur will not be due pipetting error. I found it so fantastic that it was one of the many things I proposed to apply in Brazil as well. After I passed the pipette training, I started to learn other important techniques in research, such as preparing samples with a cryostat (a cooled system to cut samples in micrometers, which can be used to DNA, RNA and protein analysis). I was fortunate enough to be in contact with techniques I had never done before, so everything was so new and exciting. Besides preparing samples with cryostat, I was allowed to prepare samples with laser microdissection and also perform RT-PCR (Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction). The former is a fantastic technique that I was fortunate enough to perform, since there are very few laboratories in Brazil with the equipment necessary. Briefly, using UV light to cut specific regions and infrared light to heat and melt the film covering the sample, laser microdissection allows taking out target stained cells in tissue specific regions. Thus, the subsequent DNA, RNA and protein analysis are more specific, with more clear answers. The latter is a very common method to analyze target genes expression within a cell or a tissue. I was allowed to perform every step, from the sample preparation to the RT-PCR reaction, including RNA extraction using RNAeasy kit, RNA purity and integrity analysis by spectrophotometer measure and RNA transformation to cDNA. It was extremely exciting because not only I had learned the technique but also it was possible to analyze and compare expression for the same target genes in both tissue sections samples prepared using cryostat and microglial cells (immune cells in the brain) from hippocampus samples prepared using laser microdissection.

Even though it was not possible to perform a formal scientific project, I could learn important and fantastic methods in a laboratory. Besides, the team was so polite and considerate and had looked after me so well that it was really sad when I had to say farewell to them. Nagoya had welcomed me so warmly and it was so pleasant to live there, with so many places to visit and a great variety of characteristic foods, keeping me occupied for 14 weeks. During my stay, I also had the opportunity to learn a bit more of Japanese culture not only by talking to the local people and the laboratory team, but also by learning taiko (たいこ), a typical Japanese instrument.

My experience at Nagoya University was amazing on educational and personal level, and I am sure it will be extremely significant to my career. I cannot even put into words how great and amazing it was. I would recommend it to anyone. I will definitely return to Japan in the future.

Me, in front of the Nagoya University Higashiyama Campus

Nagoya Castle, one of the must-visit places in Nagoya