April 30, 2013, by Yvonne Teoh
Life of an Intern – Research in Animal Behaviour (Part 2)
Summer break is a good time for undergraduate students as they can be enrolled into various programs, part-time jobs and internships. For me, I applied for an internship in Cerca Insights, a Contract Research Organization (CRO) which specialized in behavioral pharmacology. This company collaborates with customers from all around the world. Their vision is to help their customers in discovering the next generation of central nervous system (CNS) drugs more productively, and they are dedicated in improving drug discovery productivity. In addition, Cerca Insights provides well-validated behavioral pharmacology assays. The Cerca Insights office is located in Bayan Lepas Industrial Estate, Penang.
I interned there for the three months where I was required to handle rodents such as mice and rats. The aim of the project I worked on was to investigate the sexual behaviors’ and activities in male rats when they have been administered with antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Typically, the male rats are allowed to mate with the female rats which are receptive. This testing time will be done during the rats’ active period (dark cycle). Normal sexual behaviors’ displayed are mounting (no vagina penetration), intromission (vaginal penetration) and ejaculations. I was to observe these behaviors’ and calculate the latency between mounting, intromission and ejaculations of each cycle. Lordosis from the female rats is to be observed as well. Lordosis is when the female rats adopt a freezing posture with spine arched inwards, the head has been raised and rump extends its back legs and deflects its tail to one side. We also have to weigh the rats weekly and plot a graph according to it for monitoring purpose.
Part of my responsibilities requires me to do husbandry, meaning I had to clean the cages, feed the rats ad libitum, and change the beddings. I learned to anesthetise rats and extract blood samples for blood plasma which is also called Cardiopunture. After Cardiopunture, we have to cull the rats.
There were various other experiments running at the same time, so I also had the chance to learn from the other projects and scientists. One of the projects I helped was the locomotors function research where the Noldus pocket observer software was used to monitor the rat’s activity movement. Besides that, I also helped out in a rotarod experiment, where we investigated the effects of baclofen using the rotarod test. I learned to ear notch the rats to indicate its own individual IDs. I was taught to autoclave feedings for the rats and collect water from the osmosis reverse machine to get the distilled water for the autoclaving of food.
In a nutshell, the experiences gained from this internship had been great and valuable. I have learned a lot of from the scientists on how to manage projects individually, and being professional. This company had been a great platform for me to grow and expand my horizons on how to think critically and evaluate any problems arising.
Carol A/P Jeya Kumar
(Year 3 Student in BSc (Hons.) Psychology, UNMC)