by Chas Blakemore
High School Senior at the AcademyforMath,Engineering&Science
For the past two years, I have worked in Dr.HenryWhite’s Electrochemistry lab, at the University of Utah, researching DNA mutations. I was afforded the opportunity to work in this lab through my involvement in the science fair at the AcademyforMath,Engineering&Science. It originally began as a mentorship for a science fair project, but then blossomed into a part-time occupation in independent research. Currently in the lab, I am looking to detect and quantify oxidative mutations of the DNA base Guanine. These mutations are synthesized in the K-ras gene, a sequence often mutated in a human with any of a variety of cancers. Mutations are detected by suspending DNA strands in the protein channel Alpha-hemolysin and analyzing the flow of ionic current through the pore as a strand of mutated DNA is held within. The purpose of this research is to eventually be able to take a sample of amplified human DNA and quantify exactly how much of the K-ras gene present is mutated so as to establish a correlation between this mutated gene and various forms of cancer.
Doing this research has allowed me to understand my own attraction to the sciences. I cherish every little development and accomplishment made in the lab although I often have to persevere through failed experiments and insufficient data. The beauty of research comes when you get to discover something or make a conclusion, however minor. The simple acquisition of knowledge in whatever obscure or relevant field you find yourself interested in is one of the most satisfying accomplishments a scientist could desire. Understanding this about myself has solidified, in my mind, my commitment to researching science, in any number of fields, for the rest of my life.
The best advice anyone can give concerning lab research is to find something you are interested in and commit yourself to it. If a person is interested in a particular branch of science, research in that field is made extraordinarily easier and more enjoyable. Lab research also presents students with the potential for networking in the scientific community as well as expanding their own knowledge base. As a member of my lab, I have been able to attend a plethora of seminars about a variety of topics in chemistry. Although much of the time these seminars are unrelated to my own research, they teach me valuable information that I not only find interesting, but also potentially useful if I ever have the desire to pursue another topic in chemistry.