I’m an Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Natural Science and Mathematics Division at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Washington College is a private liberal arts school that prides itself on providing hands-on learning experiences. Mentoring undergraduate students in a research setting is a huge part of the culture at Washington College, which is beneficial to productivity of the faculty members and provides students with valuable research experience.
In summer 2021, Emmanuella (Ella) Sanvee, a rising junior, completed an eight-week summer research experience in my lab that was generously supported by an SOT Undergraduate Faculty Research Grant. Through the summer, not only were we able to gather enough data to submit an abstract for the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting, but also, it was an opportunity to provide Ella with valuable research and laboratory experience that she had missed because of the interruption in our in-person classes.
Our research studied the role of MLH1 in cobalt- and nickel-induced toxicity in V79 cells. Ella used CRISPR/Cas 9 to decrease the expression of MLH1 in V79 cells, and then, using these cells, we examined how each cell line responded to single and co-exposure to these metals. This included doing cytotoxicity assays, measuring activation of several markers for apoptosis, and analyzing changes in cell cycle progression. Ella ended the semester by conducting preliminary experiments examining the epigenetic changes that occurred following co-exposure, specifically focusing on methylation of H3K9me2 at the MLH1 promoter. Ella presented her data at the Washington College Fall Family Weekend Research Symposium in September 2021 and will be presenting a poster at the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting. Ella was accepted for the Undergraduate Diversity Program, which will support her travel but also allow her to participate in an amazing program. Furthermore, this research funding was instrumental for completing experiments for resubmission of a manuscript. The value of the experience is reflected in the Emmanuella’s comments in this blog.
I strongly encourage undergraduate faculty members to apply for this funding opportunity. The application deadline for the SOT Undergraduate Faculty Development and Undergraduate Faculty Research Grants is April 8. These funds are managed by the Faculty United for Toxicology Undergraduate Recruitment and Education (FUTURE) Committee.
Last summer I learned a lot of research skills, including performing western blots, cell culture, metal exposure using aseptic techniques, extracting whole lysates and histones, and conducting cell cycle analysis. I was responsible for analyzing and presenting the results to my research mentor, which required me to understand not only the experiment but also how each one fit together into a larger picture. In addition to basic laboratory techniques, we conducted weekly journal clubs through which I learned to read and critically analyze primary literature. I was required to write a scientific research paper and design a poster at the end of the summer, which is important for many of my classes and as I progress into my senior year and need to conduct an independent capstone project. Along with the valuable skills and the ability to work closely with a faculty member, this experience also taught me about other opportunities that are available outside of medicine. I learned that I like not only doing research but also finding ways to communicate the basic science to others. I have begun to think about career opportunities in the fields of public health and advocacy, in which I can take my knowledge of science and be able to apply it to advocate for those who may be underserved. #Undergraduateeducation#SOTUndergraduateEducator#ResearchandGrantFunding