August 03, 2012
Communications and Marketing
Dan Martin '12 has created three molecules that only exist in his tiny vials in Saint Anselm College's chemistry lab. Elizabeth Craig '14 is running three different experiments with a squad of rats while Erin Albiero '13 investigates the mysteries of odor memory.
"Professor Wenzel calls us pseudo grad students, we get so into our work," says psychology major Albiero.
This summer, 14 Saint Anselm College students are on campus conducting research funded by the New Hampshire INBRE program, which aims to increase biomedical research within the state. While supporting faculty projects, it emphasizes student participation in training, lab work, and independent research.
Through the INBRE grant, Saint Anselm students, ranging in major from biology to chemistry to psychology and computer science, are developing their research skills while searching for answers to questions posed by scientists all over the world.
In the Lab
Recent chemistry graduate, Martin explains his lab work as a chef might a recipe, except his splicing and mixing could result in an increased concentration in dopamine that he hopes would help an ADHD or Alzheimer's patient. Martin and three others are working with professor Lisa Bonner to design and synthesize chemical modulators of dopamine.
In the lab upstairs, Craig and fellow researcher Molly Walsh '13 run 64 rats through the beginning stages of experiments to learn more about drug abuse relapse. Spending at least six hours a day in the lab, she runs the experiment, preps and cleans, and discusses data with psychology professor Joseph Troisi.
In addition to studying dopamine, drug addiction relapse and bioinformatics, students are investigating cancer and otherwise gaining valuable research skills through training and hands-on experience.
Undergraduates learn basic lab skills as they are trained on equipment, terminology, and library resources. Then they work alongside their faculty mentor, asking questions as they go.
In addition to research skills, "young scientists gain and cultivate manifold life skills," says psychology professor Adam Wenzel. Those include oral and written communication, analytical inquiry, self-reliance and self-confidence.
Martin attributes his time management and communication skills to his time in the lab: "There are four of us in the lab at one time so we need to know who is here and work together. We share the same equipment so if your research is based on using one piece and someone else is using it, you're in trouble."
INBRE's goals bring Saint Anselm College's educational mission to life by creating a partnership that benefits the students first and foremost.
"INBRE wants to build and sustain a research culture and we already have that so it enhances our current opportunities," says Derk Wierda, Saint Anselm College's principal investigator for INBRE's research training component.
"As a liberal arts, undergraduate college, we like to train students and give them critical thinking skills through research. INBRE helps us do this while also providing additional tools," says Wierda.
Saint Anselm, only in its second year of a five-year grant, has (to date) benefited 80 students, received each of the three types of grants and also received the Director's Initiative Award (see right column for grants).
Senior biochemistry major, Jen Pace was working in Professor Bonner's lab when the INBRE grant was first awarded to the college. Working under the grant, she has developed nine new pieces of matter and fallen in love with lab work. Pace says she most enjoys the problem solving that comes with research. She plans to apply to medicinal chemistry and drug development doctoral programs in the fall and attributes the INBRE program for giving her future a direction.
"This experience at Saint Anselm makes the world of research and psychology more tangible than any textbook or lecture could show," says Craig.