Working in a Virus Lab

In January 2013, I started volunteering in the Ward Lab over at the Medical Center to do undergraduate research. The Ward Lab’s primary focus is viruses, so I actually got the opportunity to work with mouse pox, a member of the poxvirus family. So yes, I was and still am working with a very dangerous virus, but luckily, mouse pox cannot infect humans.


University of Rochester Medical Center


Rather than getting into the detailed and very specific parts of my scientific work, I’d rather talk about my experience as a student in the lab. Initially, when I first started working, I had a very hard time because I was so unfamiliar with lab techniques. But my Principal Investigator, Dr. Brian Ward, was very understanding of my novice level and guided me through various processes. He was the sole reason for my success in the lab.

Now, months later, I am able to conduct a variety of experiments on my own, and I don’t always need Dr. Ward by my side. But what’s important to note here is the trust we have, Dr. Ward and I. Without trust, he would and should not let me be in his lab. I have the responsibility of conducting sometimes high-risk experiments and have to be able to do so without making too many mistakes. Mistakes waste supplies and create higher costs, not to mention wasted time.

Though it was very hard at first, I couldn’t be more pleased with my experience in the lab. I’ve learned how to design an experiment and I’ve learned a number of important laboratory procedures, manual dexterity, time management, and how to read and write science. It was hectic at times, but every day I go into lab, I go because I want to. And that’s all made possible because I’m at Rochester, a top private university with ample academic opportunities!

About the author

Alap Patel

I'm a member of the Class of 2015 and I'm from California. I'm pre-med with a major in health, behavior, and society and a minor in legal studies. I was also accepted into the Rochester Early Medical Scholars (REMS) program. I am on the UR Bhangra Team and in Delta Upsilon fraternity.

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  • This is great! I remember my first internship and the struggle to find that balance of trust, ability, and knowledge. It takes a while but once you get that a whole bunch of doors open up for you. Rochester is a great place to get those opportunities.

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