September 8, 2017
Head of the class: From Summer@Brown student to T.A.
Teaching assistant (TA) Kyra Schindler walks students through the lab instructions for preparing cell suspensions.
The lab in Room 112A in the BioMedical Center is bustling with activity one steamy Tuesday afternoon in July. The students in Professor Lindsay Mehrmanesh’s Summer@Brown class, “Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine,” are busy working on several experiments. Some students are taking turns counting out samples of wiggly regenerative planarians, while others are using microscopes to view a plate of embryoid cell clusters they’ve cultured.
Mixed in among them is the class’ teaching assistant (TA), Kyra Schindler.
Over by the hoods, she’s walking students through the steps of preparing different variations of a cell suspension, answering questions and gently reminding students of lab protocol with the expertise and familiarity of someone who has done this before. That’s because she has.
Three years ago, Schindler, a rising sophomore at Barnard College, was a student in this class, completing experiments and writing up reports with other high-schoolers.
It was during the two-week course that Schindler realized a love for the lab.
“Dr. Mehrmanesh's class was the first real exposure that I had to lab work. As soon as I was in the lab for the first time, I realized that I was completely enthralled by every experiment we did, big or small,” Schindler recalls. “I felt at home in the lab and found that I became more comfortable and excited every day that I came back to class and understood the material on a slightly deeper level.”
Schindler focuses a microscope so students can view the cells they've grown.
So when she applied and was hired as a Summer@Brown residential assistant (RA) this year, she saw it not only as an opportunity for summer employment, but as a way to jump back into the labs she enjoyed so much as a student.
Receiving an email from Schindler about summer assistant opportunities, Mehrmanesh didn’t think twice about having her T.A.
“In class, she was always very serious, very into the subject matter. She loved lectures, always had an answer, was always on the ball,” Mehrmanesh says.
It wasn’t all labs and lectures during her time as a Summer@Brown student. Schindler recalls going to WaterFire and spending lots of time with a handful of close friends she made while she was on campus.
Since her first Summer@Brown experience, Schindler has continued to pursue her interest in science, declaring a major in biology, with a minor in Spanish, and plans to pursue a graduate medical program with a focus on stem cell research.
Students complete their lab work as Schindler looks on, ready to lend a helping hand if needed.
She says she’s enjoyed being on the other side of the classroom as a T.A. this summer and may like to teach at the University level one day.
“It’s been nice to be able to spend time with students who are new to the lab and introduce them to new techniques,” Schindler says.
Beyond the lab, and despite a very busy schedule juggling her two jobs, Schindler made a point to talk to her high-school age students about their future plans.
“High school students want everything you know. I’ve been talking to a lot of students about the college application process because a lot of them are nervous. I think it’s important to hear from someone who is in college that they don’t have to worry as much as they are,” Schindler says. No doubt, Schindler’s students not only benefited from her experience as a college student but also the passion and excitement she brought to the lab, and passed along to them, every day.
While assisting the course curriculum was Schindler's primary role, she found many students were equally interested in talking about college life and the application process.