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SRIA Scholars Complete Summer Internships

Matthew Fraley
Graduate Assistant, School of Natural Science and Mathematics

Isaiah feature

As an SRIA Scholar, Isaiah Williamson received the Michael Guckavan Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Excellence Award, given for the best interdisciplinary research project by Kraig E. Sheetz, Ph.D., dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics.

The School of Natural Science and Mathematics offers the SRIA, or Student Research Internship Award, to select students. In spite of the ongoing pandemic, seven SRIA scholars worked with faculty advisors in Summer 2020 to gain an optimal research experience. Each of the SRIA scholars are chosen based on the research proposals submitted to Kraig E. Sheetz, Ph.D., dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics.

Faculty advisors to SRIA scholars play an integral role in creating this one-of-a-kind experience. As researchers themselves, they benefit from having these scholars working with them.

"The SRIA program has allowed me to get some very talented students in my lab who worked diligently to gather data that will support both my career and theirs," said Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, who advised two of the scholars. "It was especially vital this summer as it allowed both me and my students to rebound from an interrupted spring semester and gain some useful experience.”

isaiah-2-thumbnail.jpgIsaiah Williamson received the Michael Guckavan Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Excellence Award, given for the best interdisciplinary research project. He worked with Jonathan Slezak, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, to research “making of choices that featured different levels of delays and reinforcers in rats by using a delayed-discounting task.” The research project combined two of Isaiah's passions, programming and psychology, as part of his project required rigorous application of his programming and computational skills. “This past summer is an experience that will likely define many of my future decisions, especially in terms of my career,” Isaiah said. “It confirmed that I enjoy research and that I want research to be a major part of my graduate experience.”

“ The SRIA [program] is an instrumental experience that can put our students a step ahead of their peers, building skills/expertise that graduate schools/employers seek, when able to primarily focus on research during a summer term,” said Professor Slezak.

maqui.jpgMaqui Carrillo appreciated the opportunity. “I would highly recommend this experience to anyone looking for laboratory research as it was a great way for me to understand what I would want to do with my career in the future,” Maqui said. “I would also recommend this experience to anyone looking for an individual challenge in the summer, as performing research for a faculty member teaches you a lot of new skills and opens up many doors for future research and experiences in the STEM realm.” She worked with Christine McCauslin, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and chair of the Science Department, on “understanding protein structure and function using a Ubiquitin Model to examine protein binding interactions,” she explained. Her testing involved PCR tests, gel electrophoresis and more. 

Three of the SRIA Scholars were advised by Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry. “SRIA support has done wonders for our students and our research programs,” Lombardi said. “The vast majority of the SRIA scholars from my laboratory have continued working with our research group throughout the remainder of their rita.jpgundergraduate careers at the Mount. In this way, one summer in the SRIA program often provides the training necessary for years of independent research at the Mount and beyond.”

Rita Anoh described her research with Professor Lombardi as examining “DNA damage response and the proteins that are involved in this process, mainly a protein called ASCC2.” Her goal with this research was to “create a mutation in the ASCC2 sequence and determine how much stronger or weaker it binds to diubiquitin after it has been mutated.” Her summer experience served as an introduction to continued research in the following semesters. Rita said that she hopes that "every science major student gets this experience in their career at the Mount.”

Devin Shorb worked with Professor Lombardi on “K63-linked Polyubiquitin: ASCC2 devin.jpgbinding.” Devin sought to determine “how diubiquitin binds to the ASCC2 CUE domain” and “determine where and what the novel binding site is.” In addition to learning about the importance of time management in research, Devin said that he gained experience with “how to use a number of the instruments, new lab techniques and lab procedures.”

Lizanne Passaro's work with Professor Lombardi focused on “investigating the protein structure of Geosmin synthase, a protein which makes double ringed geosmin terpenes.” The hope with her research was to determine the three-dimensional structure of the protein which will lead to a lizanne.jpggreater understanding of the mechanism of the enzyme. Lizanne found the experience to be rewarding and a valuable experience moving forward. Her confidence has only been boosted as a result of working in the lab. “Anything I didn’t already know how to perform, I was taught,” Lizanne said. “My participation in this program only enhanced my interest in science.”

Briana Smith explored “how different genes could possibly be tied to memory formation, particularly habituation, in C. elegan worms,” she explained. The research opportunity, conducted with Professor Kallarackal, benefited Briana academically and professionally. She gained experience with lab techniques, administering blind studies and gathering and coding data. When asked about the overall experience, Briana said, “The only way I can be prepared to perform research in my professional career is to gather as much experience as I can in my educational career, and the SRIA award helped me to do this.”

Professor Kallarackal also worked with Charlie Faw on her project to “test impact of an Alzheimer’s gene on short-term memory in the model organism C. elegans,” she said. Her research involved testing two different strains of the model organism and putting them “through a short-term plasticity test utilizing optogenetics.” She also assisted with other research in the lab. This experience helped Charlie "grow as a student and a person," she said.



Matthew Fraley
Graduate Assistant, School of Natural Science and Mathematics