Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Toxicology major benefits from summer research internship

While 13 science majors stayed on campus this summer to experience full-time research, many AU students take advantage of off-campus internships. Daphne Guinn (AU'11) is a Toxicology major (and this year's secretary for AU's chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the biology honorary society) who spent the summer at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She found out about this NSF-funded REU Program in Molecular Biosciences from Philip Wages (AU'11), who participated in Summer'09, and then looked into the program some more on-line.

There were several benefits of this experience. "The program allowed me to explore my interests in the biomedical research field," says Daphne. "During my research experience, I became familiar with many different techniques commonly used in biochemistry and genetics, such as PCR and Western blotting. It allowed me to work with a diverse group of scientists in different stages of their graduate and post-doctoral careers. It gave me perspective on the work and dedication that goes into biomedical research and it solidified my decisions on pursuing biomedical research as a life-long career. Outside of the lab, I participated in weekly journal clubs and seminars geared toward graduate school application prep and learning about future careers. I also was able to socialize and spend a summer getting to know new people from different places in the country.

The research project that Daphne worked on "...focused on understanding the role of histone modification on transcription and replication. The basis of the project stemmed from the fact that when transcription moves through an origin of replication, replication does not occur. This mechanism is not well understood, but one hypothesized mechanism is that post-translational modification to unstructured histone tails can alter the chromatin environment and disrupt replication. My focus for this project was the post-translation modification that occurs at histone H3 at lysine 36 mediated by the methyltransferase, set2. By working with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, I was able to get experience in cloning yeast strains. The new strains were used to analyze the affects of the post-translational methylation events and ensure that global perturbation of the chromatin environment was not the cause of the replication defect."

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