A Postcard From: Nikitha Shankar Shakamuri ’19

Name: Nikitha Shankar Shakamuri
Class Year: 2019
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Marlboro

Internship Placement: Robert Wood Johnson Laboratories
Job Title: Undergraduate Research Assistant
Location: Piscataway Township, N.J.

What’s happening at your internship?

Currently, we are running fentanyl self-administering rats to study the role of orexin in opioid addiction.  By using self-administering rats, we can use the Law of Demand, which leads to behavioral economics, to understand the role of orexin in reward conditioning.

Why did you apply for this internship?

The Gary Aston-Jones lab, a behavioral neuroscience lab, combines my passion for both psychology and biology. The lab also places each student with a mentor to gain skills in handling animals/histology/immunohistochemistry.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

The internship has been fantastic so far because I have learned research techniques most undergraduates learn in later years/medical school. I learned the basics of immunohistochemistry to stain tissue from markers of neuronal activation, which I would have never imagined. I also learned histology to section/mount brain tissue.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my internship is being the “newbie.” Everyone in the lab has had prior experience or are Rutgers veterans. As my first real wet lab experience, I found it hard at first to keep a steady, confident mind. With the help of my mentor, and the skills she taught me in a short period of time, I found the lab environment to be rewarding (no pun intended).

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