Annie Sternberg ’22: SIO Jan Plan 2021 at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

My name is Annie Sternberg, and I’m a junior at Colby College where I double-major in Biology with a concentration in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and English with a concentration in Creative Writing.  This Jan Plan I worked at Bigelow Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Melody Lindsey, a postdoctoral scientist hired by Senior Research Scientists Dr. Beth Orcutt and Dr. Dave Emerson.  Our work is part of a collaborative attempt to link respiration rates with the identities of single cells.  This project is known as the Genome-to-Phenome (or G2P) Project.  My project focused on anaerobic respiration testing and was composed of two parts:  The first step aimed to diversify the anaerobes we were testing and is referred to as the methanogen experiment.  We inoculated Methanobacter autotrophicum from a sample sent to us by collaborators in Nevada.  To ensure the cells were growing, we measured methane levels daily using a gas chromatograph.  Once methane rates stabilized, the number of respiring cells was determined using flow cytometry.  By staining the cells with redox sensor green, a dye that is activated by the transfer of electrons, we could visualize actively-respiring cells on a plot mapping cell size against fluorescence.  Then a relationship could be determined between fluorescence and methane production to determine the respiration rates of individual cells.  The second part of the project, the Maine Coastal Sediment Experiment, involved sampling an anoxic environment.  For this experiment, Dr. Lindsay and I worked with core samples taken from the mudflats of a nearby eddy.  Similar experiments were followed, including flow cytometry to determine the number of actively-respiring cells, and methods of measuring respiration byproducts.  I was honored to be a part of the Colby Bigelow Jan Plan partnership, sponsored by the Champlin Science Scholars funds, and I hope to return at some point in my academic career!

Annie Sternberg ’22

Ben Gustafson ’22: SIO Jan Plan/Spring 2021 at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Ben is a major in Environmental Science with a concentration in Marine Science. After completing Colby’s Sea Change Semester program at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Ben looks forward to joining Bigelow’s Balch lab as a research technician aboard the R/V Roger Revelle. This will be Ben’s first deep-ocean cruise, and he is excited to apply his skills from research at Colby and Bigelow to research aboard the Revelle. See Ben’s blog of his journey here.

Ben Gustafson ’22

Katherine Specht ’22: SIO Jan Plan 2021 at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center with Dr. Demheri

I am a junior Economics major who is planning on attending medical school after Colby. This JanPlan, I interned at Demehri Laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts during December and January. Our laboratory is focused on studying mechanisms of the immune system and to utilize the anti-tumor potential of the immune system to develop cancer treatments and prevention. In this role, I focused primarily on a randomized prospective trial evaluating a topical ointment as an immune modulator in patients who were recently diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. I analyzed H&E-stained core biopsies to identify the tumor tissues in biopsy and surgery slides from our trial patients. Additionally, I analyzed these tumor tissues and quantified lymphocytes within these tissues. A second project I worked on focusing on looking at the effect of a certain cytokine on normal mammary gland development during pregnancy in a mouse model. In this project, I analyzed mouse mammary glands between wild type mice and mice that systemically overexpressed this cytokine looking at the difference in vessel density between these two groups.

Kat Specht ’22

Over my two months I learned a variety of techniques. I learned how to wash tissue after we harvested it from mice to prepare it to be embedded in paraffin. I learned how to cut tissue embedded in paraffin using a Microtome and put it onto a slide. I also learned H&E, IF, and IHC staining and more importantly the science behind the staining protocol. I used the program HALO to quantify various immune cells in tumor tissue. I used Image J to quantify vessel density and branch length, # of junctions, and # of endpoints. I learned how to handle laboratory mice and how we harvest mice in our lab. I learned cell counting using both a hemocytometer and Luna. One of the best pieces of advice I received was while staining H&E slides. I was told “Before you run any protocol, you should understand the reasoning behind each step you do, therefore if you get stuck or mess up, you’re able to problem solve. If you don’t understand every step, don’t run the protocol until you do”. This philosophy stuck with me and drove me to study each protocol I learned. Another skill I learned during my time in the lab was how to read a research paper. Initially, I read a research paper from start to finish as I would a piece of literature and had only glanced at the figures at the end of the paper. However, the best scientists read the abstract of a paper to familiarize themselves with the topic of the paper and then jump down to the figures at the bottom. Rather than allow the authors to tell them what conclusions a reader should draw from these figures, a true scientist looks at the figures and comes to their own conclusions about what the results mean. My favorite part about working in the lab was how passionate everyone was about the work we were doing. People frequently stayed late, came in on weekends, and spent their free time reading papers about novel techniques or experiments related to their own research. I appreciated working alongside passionate and brilliant individuals. They inspired me to approach science with a desire to learn anything and everything. I look forward to bringing that passion into my academic and professional career.

Ja’Sean Holmes ’21:  SIO Jan Plan 2020 at Smith & Nephew Medical Devices

“I am immensely grateful for this internship experience at Smith & Nephew. I learned so much about the biotechnology industry that I will surely take with me in the future. The creation of a medical device encompasses a plethora of planning, teamwork, and verification to ensure that it is not only safe for clinical use but also efficient in helping the body heal, in addition to being cost effective. Each person that I encountered at this organization increased my knowledge about this industry while giving me sound advice to pursue my career. Working with Mr. Parikh has made me even more passionate about biotechnology, and I have gained many skills from this experience, including taking medical images, developing 3D models, and discussing scientific research with others. Moreover, I expanded my network with all of the Smith & Nephew employees who took the time from their compact schedules to speak with a hopeful student like myself. I hold this internship experience as a valuable starting point in my career and am beyond thankful for the generous Colby donors who made this experience possible for me. Since my time at Smith & Nephew, I now feel ​more confident in myself as a future biomedical engineer and research scientist.”

Daisy Dan ’20:  SIO Jan Plan 2020 at the Harris Orthopaedics Lab (HOL) at Mass General

This opportunity could not have been possible without the generous funding from DavisConnect and the Linde Packman Lab of Biosciences and Innovation to support my lodging, transportation and meals for this month. After spending one summer and a Jan Plan at HOL, I was offered a full time position after graduation at the lab.  My primary tasks included analyzing study participant x-rays, working on registry data processing and attending Clinical Research Day at MGH. For the past Jan Plan more specifically, I have been working more closely with the full-time staff on developing SQL and python code to collect patient data, which contribute to their data registry as well as working on the data pre-processing of their machine learning project. This opportunity is very unique since it joins my interest in biomedical science and technology together.

The experience at Mass General Hospital allowed me to connect classroom learning material and discussion to real-world challenges. By applying programming skills on large datasets of orthopaedics patients, I was able to understand the data more while making meaningful impact to both quality assurance at MGH as well as health outcome research. Additionally, I became more determined to pursue a career in healthcare because from looking at data from large cohorts like this, I realized each case can be so different and medicine is more complicated than data points in the registry. I am looking forward to returning to HOL after graduation and learning more about different aspects of the healthcare industry.

Annie Schulman ’22: PCO Jan Plan 2020 at Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative (MCGI)-JAX

One of my roles was to examine brain tumor genomic data.  This involved taking all the genomic sequencing information and sorting to see what type of mutations were most common and of those mutations which tumors they were associated with.  Each gene mutation has specific subcategories indicating the type of mutation that occurred.  The Clinical Knowledgebase – CKB – is an online platform hosted by JAX for genomic and genetic information that archives 1000s of gene mutations and related treatment/ clinical trial information/ therapies/ literature for each gene mutation. I made a graphic design to help inform individuals about the uses of CKB for the MCGI 2020 Forum Booklet. In addition, Dr. Jens Rueter, the lead doctor of this study, arranged for me to co-present an abstract that we submitted to NNECOS Spring Meeting about genomic brain tumor data. At some point in the near future, we will present in front of an oncology practice, from which an important neuro-oncologist in this study works. 

Ultimately, this internship was very helpful in preparing for my future career in medicine and research, as I learned about the work it takes for research to occur. In addition, I learned about some of the requirements of being a doctor and why CME credits are important. Finally, I learned a lot about genomics and brain tumors, and will continue to learn more through my extended work with MCGI. This will hopefully make me a more well rounded physician some day, as genomic and genetic testing is becoming more and more important and impactful in physician practices.

Chido Mpofu ’20:  SIO Jan Plan 2020 in the Zimbabwe Medical System

Chido, an engineering dual degree major (Dartmouth program), traveled throughout Zimbabwe in January to study medical device use and availability in her home country.  “For the research project, I had three main goals: to establish disease burden for the provinces that I visited, to determine the medical device distribution and coverage specific to the disease burden, and to learn about functionalities in the available devices. I  visited different hospitals and inquired about what issues they encounter from day to day. While some diseases are common across the country, there are some diseases that are more incident in certain areas. Researching disease burden was an important step in establishing what sort of medical devices are important in a region. After establishing each area’s disease characteristics, I wanted to find out what sort of devices the hospitals have that are specific to the diseases. These devices could be for diagnostic or treatment purposes. I want to establish what devices they needed versus what they had.

My career goal is to engineer better medical equipment, and the research I will do in this project will help me start to identifying gaps in the availability of equipment and gaps in the equipment’s capacities to measure and treat patients. With this in mind, the third goal was to establish what functionalities are more important. A device can have several capabilities and only be used for one particular function. The objective was to establish what functionalities are more important and to later on understand which ones can be combined to make a device that is used to its fullest capacity.”

Maya Cortez ’20:  SIO Jan Plan 2020 – Development of Assessment Tools to Detect Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Children with Down Syndrome – Colorado State University Developmental Disabilities Research Lab.

For my internship experience this Jan Plan I volunteered as a research assistant in the Developmental Disabilities Research Lab at Colorado State University. This experience went above and beyond my expectations. When I arrived at the lab at the beginning of January, I was immediately welcomed warmly by all of the researchers and coordinators in the lab. In fact, I was able to sit in on the first lab team meeting of the year for this lab. In this meeting, I learned about the projects that this lab is continuing from 2019, the grants that they just received to invite participants back for a longitudinal study, and the grants that they are currently writing to be able to extend their current studies. This lab primarily focuses on creating new interventions and education to target cognitive deficits in children with Down Syndrome (DS).

This experience definitely gave me insight into how I want to incorporate research into my professional and academic future. It further solidified my passion for advocating for and working with people with disabilities in whichever career I choose to pursue. Throughout this internship I found that research can be a personal and very dynamic field that also allows one to interact with people and make connections in specific communities. I am realizing that most of the career paths I have been thinking about, such as occupational therapy and behavioral pediatrics, could have a natural connection to labs like the developmental disabilities lab at CSU so that the support continues to grow for populations like people with DS. As I move forward in my academic and professional careers, I would like to continue to be connected to research and work with specific labs that share my goals of providing the strongest support possible to people with disabilities.