Summer Centered: Eshal Asim '26 Is Studying Microscopic Life Forms
As an intern in Assistant Professor of Biology Kristen Whalen's lab, Asim is studying the relationship between a marine phytoplankton and a marine bacterium when they are cultured together.
Eshal Asim ’26 has always been fascinated with cell biology. Last year, she even wrote and illustrated a children’s book about the parts of a cell.
This summer, she’s been able to put that fascination under the microscope during an internship in the lab of Assistant Professor of Biology Kristen Whalen where she is studying the relationship between a marine phytoplankton and a marine bacterium when they are cultured together.
“To think that there’s so much about the most minuscule form of life that we don’t know will always amaze me,” Asim said.
As a potential biology major with an eye on medical school down the line, Asim has been planning and running experiments to better understand how the interactions between these marine organisms could eventually play a part in antibiotic resistance.
During her internship, which is funded by the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center as a Winter/Love summer research scholar, Asim has learned plenty of technical skills, including how to operate a confocal microscope, how to create mediums for cell cultures, and how to plate serial dilutions. But along the way she’s realized that the real key to the work of a biology lab is preparation.
“I’d always thought that conducting an experiment was the hardest part of the scientific process, but during these past four weeks I’ve quickly learned that the most important parts are planning and preparing,” Asim said. “In our experiments, knowing when to start is based on the concentrations of our cells and their optical densities, which are all determined by data based on other experiments we’ve done. We also consider what equipment we’ll need and if anything needs to be made in advance. Long story short, planning is like an experiment within itself.”
Alongside Whalen and Faye Yan ’25, Asim has been studying axenic E. huxleyi (the phytoplankton) and Pseudoalteromonas piscicida (the bacterium), searching for information about how their interactions in the ocean could be applied to human therapeutics. Like other marine organisms, they synthesize natural products that could be used to combat drug-resistant pathogens.
Asim said she has always been drawn to science because of the idea that every organism has a purpose, even if it requires intensive study to reveal it. Working on everything from lab protocols to live cells, she’s been able to learn about both the scientific process and cellular communication, bringing her curiosity to bear as she develops new skills. Along the way, she’s also learned an important lesson that will carry forward in her education.
“Before this internship, I didn’t have a lot of experience working in a lab or with marine biology, so I was a little apprehensive,” Asim said. “But as we began to run the experiments that we spent a lot of time and effort planning, my nervousness shifted into excitement."