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Undergraduate Research Program

Dorothy Cabantan

Cabantan, Dorothy

Mentor: Stefan Sandberg, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences


Current research project: Independent Chemical Verification of Electrically-evoked Dopamine Release (A.Y. 2015-16)



Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
When an unknown sample is collected, it is important to verify that the analyte being measured is the analyte of interest. To this end, five criteria have been proposed to identify an unknown analyte being measured in the brain: electrochemical, anatomical, physiological, pharmacological, and independent chemical analysis. Dopamine has been established under these five criteria, all except for independent analysis. To circumvent this, I created training sets from chemical fingerprints called cyclic voltammograms (CVs) in vitro, which were then statistically compared to in vivo CVs, in terms of qualitative and quantitative agreement. With these CVs, we are able to test the performance of a statistical calibration method known as chemometrics.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience? What did you learn from it?

Things will not always go as planned. There were days when I would spend long hours at the lab, only to have my fragile carbon-fiber electrode break during my last trial. This meant that I would need to start all over again. When working with calibrations, precision and accuracy are the gold standard. However, so is an optimistic attitude! Although difficult, I’m glad I never gave up and learned to stay resilient throughout these teachable moments. At the end of the day, it was all worth it!

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
It’s never too late nor too early to get involved! If you are interested in a TA’s or professor’s project, don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with them. Departmental websites, your advisors, and the URP program are excellent resources too!