My Summer of Science

In the summer of 2017 I spent my time working an unconventional full-time job in the lab growing as a scientist. I was given an opportunity to be mentored by an established research professor who I look up to greatly. She helped me step by step go through the process of coming up with a project, understanding the current research in the field, and guiding me through the behind the scenes documentation to get fully approved by local, state, and federal agencies.

My project that I am undertaking is geared towards ultimately understanding the roll of dietary choices and its implications on oxidative stress, leading to potential for cardiovascular disease. My lab and I are utilizing birds as a model to demonstrate the effects of a high-carbohydrate diet and its ability to cause a hyperglycemic condition. For the study, Mourning Doves will be used due to their high density in the Tempe, AZ area and much of the studies leading up to this used the same birds. They have a unique ability to combat the oxidative stress that is commonly seen due to high blood sugar. We hope to better understand how their body combats the negative effects of hyperglycemia in efforts to process the information regarding the protective mechanisms of the vascular system.

Realities of Research

The idea of moving research forward can be very attractive. The actual process of progressing it may not be as attractive. Research is a very meticulous, detail-oriented task that needs to be well planned, documented, and thought-out for it to properly work. There is no book you can read that gives you the exact answer to what you are doing. This is the world of the unknown and if properly done could potentially help shift the understanding for those to come after you. However, a major hiccup that I believe is frequently over looked as a young scientist going into a research lab is that it’s quite common to get negative results, or even though the data seems to support what you thought, it is not statistically valid based on the mathematical analysis. This is a huge part of research and can be very testing of resiliency as the process of getting this far could take months or years.

Life of a Scientist

Although, it is common to see science hitting the news headlines frequently on your phone and social media feed, it is a much longer process of meticulous work than what is publicized. In the efforts of using an animal in the aide of progressing the scientific community there is a very stringent process of approvals needed to work with them. For example, Mourning Doves are migratory birds, so my project requires an approval by the Arizona State Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services, and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before I can begin the research itself. I was surprised as I began to work in the lab by all the intricacies of administrative background work that went into being able to conduct research. While repeating experiments take a lot of time and effort, I now feel as if there is equal if not more effort done in paperwork and formalities than physical experimentation. I, myself am still waiting to begin the physical hands on portion of the research. I have worked through the course of the summer gaining valuable experience in the creation of the protocol and understanding the approval process. I have also been given the opportunity this summer to work very closely with another research project that is much larger than my own.

This summer has been an invaluable experience in research that I would not have gained otherwise without the gracious efforts of the APS.


  1. Braun, and Sweazea. “Glucose Regulation in Birds.” Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B1 (2008): 1-9. Web.
  2. Smith, Toomey, Walker, Braun, Wolf, Mcgraw, and Sweazea. “Naturally High Plasma Glucose Levels in Mourning Doves ( Zenaida Macroura) Do Not Lead to High Levels of Reactive Oxygen Species in the Vasculature.” Zoology3 (2011): 171-76. Web.
  3. Sweazea, Braun, and Sparr. “Novel Role of Insulin in the Regulation of Glucose Excretion by Mourning Doves (Zenaida Macroura).” Zoology122 (2017): 58-62. Web.
Will Clark is a senior biochemistry student at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. He is a 2017 Integrative Organismal Systems Physiology (IOSP) fellow conducting research in the lab of Dr. Karen Sweazea at Arizona State University. His long-term goal is to become a Physicians Assistant, and join the health care workforce to help improve the health and well-being of others.

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