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SNSM Community “Living Significantly” This Summer

The School of Natural Science and Mathematics strives to provide big school opportunities in a small school environment. This summer, several students and faculty experienced exciting research and internship opportunities.

Veronica Balick

veronica_balick-small.jpgVeronica Balick, a senior majoring in biochemistry and biology, interned at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research in Frederick, Maryland. She worked in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Lab which, in part, studies the RAS protein, a main mutated protein in cancers.

“I was involved with learning about the biochemistry of RAS, how it was interacting with some other proteins, and how it was interacting with the cell membrane,” Balick explained. “I was also involved with preliminary testing for some compounds to see how well they bound to RAS, and whether they affected its activity at all.”

Because of the sensitive nature of the information studied in this lab, Balick was unable to provide details about the lab's work. However, she did reveal that the internship was a great experience with amazing people who taught her a lot.

“All the classes that I’ve taken up to this point really helped me,” Balick said. “I’ve been working with Dr. (Christine) McCauslin in her lab for the past couple of years, and that helped prepare me to be in the government lab… all the Mount’s professors have helped me prepare to be there.”

Balick plans to pursue her plan to do cancer research by attending graduate school for her Ph.D in cell molecular biology or cell molecular medicine.

Dr. Susan Mertins

dr.-mertins-headshot.jpgAssistant Professor of Biology Susan Mertins, Ph.D., had the opportunity to conduct research at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research with the RAS Initiative.

Mertins, whose Ph.D is in immunology, did computational modeling of the work done in the RAS Initiative in order to better understand and potentially treat different types of cancer.

“The results [of the model] were not as effective as people once thought,” Mertins said. “The next step is to validate the model that will support [the computational model’s] finding.”

The Mount has a partnership agreement with Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., the operations and technical support contractor for the Frederick National Laboratory, that provides internship and faculty member research opportunities such as the ones that Balick and Mertins enjoyed this summer.

Mertins is excited to continue with her RAS Initiative research into the fall semester at the Frederick National Lab. “It’s always been my interest to do this modeling with drugs; it’s been a great opportunity,” Mertins said.

Dhane Schmelyun

schmelyun-harvard-med.jpgDhane Schmelyun, a junior biology major, conducted research with the Ginty Laboratory at Harvard Medical School.

The Ginty Lab is a neurobiology lab where David D. Ginty, Ph.D., C'84, and his colleagues study the sense of touch and try to gain a better understanding of how the sense of touch works.

Schmelyun’s project centered on the mechanisms for differentiation of sensory neurons in the skin.

It was an amazing experience for Schmelyun. “Never in a million years did I think that I would have an opportunity at Harvard Medical School,” he said. “With it being so early in my academic career, it opens up a lot of other opportunities elsewhere with amazing institutions for research.”

Schmelyun felt prepared to take on this internship with the skills that Mount St. Mary’s School of Natural Science and Mathematics taught him. “[The Mount] more than prepared me for [this internship],” he said. “I felt like I fit right in [at Harvard] with all the previous experience that I had here.”

Schmelyun, who is considering medical school, plans to do more clinical research in the future.

Julia Baer

baer-research.jpgJulia Baer, a junior majoring in biology and biochemistry, had the opportunity to conduct conservation research at the University of Connecticut Avery Point. Her research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through their Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.

Most of Baer’s research was looking at bivalves and the microbial communities inside the guts of the bivalves. “The overall goal of the research is to determine what symbiosis is occurring inside the muscle,” Baer said.

"It was a great experience to have, besides taking classes,” Baer said. “Being a scientist is all about creativity and problem solving. It’s not just all about memorizing things and knowing everything about your field; it’s a lot of active thinking.”

She felt that the classes and research she’s had at the School of Natural Science and Mathematics prepared her for the experience.

Baer plans to continue to do research in graduate school, where she will study environmental impacts on the ocean, mainly with marine biology.

Cole Burrows

burrows-headshot.jpgCole Burrows, a sophomore environmental science major, had the opportunity to intern with Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park through the Sondheim Nonprofit Leadership Program.

Burrows taught students about sustainability, how to take care of the environment, and environmental impacts. He also taught students about the anatomy of many of the local marine wildlife, such as horseshoe crabs and blue crabs.

“I think the experience helped me with professionalism and to be more focused on what I want to do,” Burrows said. “It really gave me a push to come back [this] semester so I can get out in the field again with another internship.”

Burrows felt prepared by the School of Natural Science and Mathematics for this internship. “A lot of professors helped me prepare for the internship [through] the biology and chemistry courses,” Burrows explained.

Burrows is hoping to work in environmental sustainability, focusing on climate change and deforestation. He is also looking into graduate school for marine ecology and environmental science.