2021 NSF REU Program: The Barton Lab

Lab bench and shelves above filled with equipment

For week four of our NSF REU profile series, we're introducing members of the Barton lab. Read on to learn how an REU Scholar is using this summer to become a more capable and well-rounded STEM professional, what drives a faculty PI to participate in the REU program, and more...

Meet Pedro X. Medina and Greg Barton.


Barton Lab
Graduating Senior | University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo
Hometown: Arecibo, PR

Why did you decide to participate in the program this summer? What are you hoping to gain from the experience?
I decided to participate in this program because I wish to acquire advanced training in designing, implementing, and evaluating research protocols towards my career as a physician-scientist. In particular, I am interested in developing my understanding of host-pathogen interactions and their capacity to influence immunity in multiple disease contexts. By strengthening my knowledge in the dynamics of immunity and pathogenesis, I will be able to approach my future practice as a more competent and well-rounded professional.

Medina keeps his pipetting technique on point in the Barton lab. The ubiquity of pipettes in the life sciences affirms their importance, and good pipetting practices are critical for data accuracy and reproducibility. Photo courtesy Pedro X. Medina.

What’s been a highlight of the program or lab experience so far? Are there any challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A major highlight of my lab experience so far has been the opportunity to shadow and assist my lab mentor while performing mouse work. She has been very helpful in explaining the rationale behind our experiments as well as the proper way to handle mice during lab practice. Although it has been challenging to understand some details of my research project, I feel comfortable asking questions and reaching out to my lab supervisors for constructive feedback.

What is your research project this summer?
My research project focuses on studying how the adaptive immune system is regulated by specific members of the gut microbiota. More specifically, we are interested in profiling T cell responses during homeostasis and disease from mice colonized with Oligo-Mouse-Microbiota (OMM12), which is a defined microbiota that consists of 12 strains of notable bacterial phyla in the murine gut. By defining which members of the microbiota can drive T cell-dependent immunity, we will be able to understand how the host interacts with specific members of the gut microbiota.

UC Berkeley is a photogenic campus. There is no lack of natural beauty, iconic landmarks, and diverse architecture to explore. Here, Medina stops for a quick photo under Sather Gate. Originally the south entrance to UC Berkeley, it has served as a hub for Cal gatherings since 1910. Photo courtesy Pedro X. Medina.

What are you looking forward to doing/exploring in Berkeley/the Bay Area this summer and why?
Aside from networking with faculty and students at the campus, I am looking forward to exploring the Bay Area and its many tourist destinations. Some attractions of interest include the Golden Gate Bridge, the Exploratorium, and the California Academy of Sciences. Visiting these places will expose me to the diversity that characterizes the Bay Area as well as provide me with long-lasting memories of my summer experience as an NSF REU intern!  


Professor of Immunology and Pathogenesis

What motivated you to participate in the REU program?
I feel a responsibility to give meaningful research opportunities to aspiring scientists. I feel that this is one of the most important things I do as a professor at Cal.

What do you enjoy about having REU students in your lab?
I love the students' enthusiasm and excitement about science. It is also fun to have students coming from all over the country.

What do you hope the REU students gain from their experience in your lab?
I hope they retain (and even increase) their enthusiasm about research. I also hope it helps them visualize a career path in science in a more concrete way, by interacting with students and fellows in my lab as well as with me.

What’s one piece of advice you hope to pass on to REU students or those wanting to pursue a career in research?
Believe in yourself.


Learn more about the NSF REU @Berkeley program: mcb.berkeley.edu/nsfreu/

Read MCB's Fall 2018 newsletter article about the program: mcb.berkeley.edu/news-and-events/transcript/fall-2018-nsf-reu-program

Visit the Barton lab website to learn more about his research program:

​Banner image adapted from photo courtesy of Doğancan Özturan via Unsplash.