Greetings again from the Chan Lab!
As I’m coming up on the end of my senior project, the work I’m doing is only getting more interesting! This week I was able to get hands-on time with the Cthulhu Shield in the lab, and also learn a lot more about optogenetics, a technique in neuroscience in which genes for light-sensitive proteins are introduced into specific types of brain cells in order to monitor and control their activity precisely using light signals. At the lab meeting on Tuesday we met with a professor in the department of electrical and electronic engineering at The University of Hong Kong, Alex T. L. Leong. Alex attended the same university as my on-site advisor, Kevin Chan, so he was able to meet with us before his research seminar talk. I gave him an introduction into the work Giles and I had been doing, especially with the Cthulhu Shield. In return, he explained some of the riveting studies and findings in his lab in Hong Kong.
After meeting Alex we headed to the conference room in which he gave his talk. His current work with optogenetics in mice is incredible and opens doors to solving even the worst neurological diseases. Afterwards, I chatted with Alex and was invited to visit his lab in Hong Kong while traveling in college.
On Thursday I headed back to the lab to begin work with the Cthulhu Shield. After connecting it to the computer and fiddling with it for a bit, I realized that the electrodes weren’t firing properly. I had figured it was a problem with a software, but I had tried every possible power setting in Arduino. This led me down the rabbit hole of troubleshooting. What made it the most difficult was the fact that the technology was so new, meaning that there were no available troubleshooting advice or FAQs. I had to fidget with the hardware on the board and run different experiments through it. Finally, I identified a weakness in the clip connecting the electrode array to the Arduino board. To fix this, I had to shove the cable into the connector without damaging the equipment. Though this proved quite difficult, in the end I was able to get the electrodes working and my software uploaded. It was the ‘Eureka!’ moment I have heard so much about. I was able to introduce other lab members to the technology, and take down notes on their feedback and reactions. Here is a photo of the Cthulhu Shield setup:
One more week to go!