Five Emmanuel College students traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, with Associate Professor of Physics Allen Price to present at the 59th annual meeting of the Biophysical Society, which was held February 7th to 11th. The students presented a poster on their recent research from Dr. Price's lab entitled, "Measuring Kinetics of DNA Cleavage with Single Molecule Resolution."
Briana Mousley '15 (biology major with a concentration in health sciences on a pre-med track), Janelle Winship '16 (biochemistry major and mathematics minor), Lindsay Cathcart '17 (biology major with a concentration in health sciences on a pre-dental track), Stefano Gambino '16 (biology major with a concentration in health sciences) and Maximilian Benz '15 (biochemistry major) presented their results from their studies on the kinetics and interactions of restriction endonucleases with DNA using microfluidics and single molecule techniques.
This research was primarily concerned with analyzing the methods that type II restriction enzymes use to find their specific "region of interest," or where to cut on a piece of DNA, according to Benz.
"We care about this because restriction enzymes are the foundation of modern biochemistry - they make gene splicing and fusion possible. Therefore, if we can learn more about these proteins and how to optimize them, it could send a ripple effect throughout the biological community and enable DNA technologies previously undreamed of," he said.
Dr. Price's research encompasses various areas of study including, biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics, which made it possible for these five students to come together as a team. According to the students, although they all have different careers paths, their interest in the research was a common denominator to form this team.
Benz hopes the skills he has "cemented in the lab" will help when applying for jobs. The conference, he said, gives the opportunities for scientists and those with Ph.D.'s exposure to the latest techniques and ideas in biophysics, "hopefully to spur new approaches and experimentation in the lab."
Mousley joined Dr. Price's team as a sophomore. For the past three years, the experience has taught her various lab techniques, how to work on a research team and how to present at a conference.
"Joining a research team is a great opportunity for those interested in hands-on work inside the lab but outside the classroom," Mousley said." The conference has always been a great experience and opportunity to share our research to the community of biophysics ranging from undergraduates to Ph.D's."
Winship joined the team this past summer and said it felt great to be able to present research to people in the scientific community and hear others from around the world talk about their projects .
"I truly believe this experience has helped prepare me for my future endeavors and recommend it to anyone looking for hands-on experience," Winship said.
Cathcart, who joined as a sophomore, also agrees that the group experience has improved her presentation skills. She highly recommends becoming a research assistant to anyone interested in a hands-on education.
"As a student researcher, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to present my work at such a large event and speak with other scientists who are conducting similar research," Cathcart said.
Gambino joined Dr. Price's team the summer after his freshman year. Over the past few years, he said the most valuable thing he has learned is the meaning and importance of inquiry-based science.
"Most of the advances that we have made throughout my time in the lab have arisen from different questions that we have come up with and used to build hypotheses, which we have then tried to prove either right or wrong. Working in an undergraduate research lab has taught me the importance of constantly asking questions as this is the foundation for new discoveries and new knowledge," he said.
This was Gambino's second time attending the conference, which he said was a fantastic experience.
"Both years the praise that we have received from other attendants of the conference truly makes us understand the importance of the work we are doing and how lucky we are to have been given this opportunity as undergraduates," Gambino said.
And the praise also comes from their teacher, Dr. Price, who added that "they are great students, doing fantastic research."
For more information on student and faculty research, visit the Research at Emmanuel section of the website.