Wabash Blogs Summers in Science

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Lincoln Smith: Biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Lincoln Smith — I am currently doing a biology research internship at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island. I am thankful for this opportunity since the researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Lab show such a dedication to their work. This is evidenced by the caliber of work and scientists which have supported the institution for years like Dr. James Watson, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA. Among the committed faculty of this institute is a Wabash College alumnus, Dr. W. Richard McCombie, in whose lab I am currently working. I have been given an independent research project in genomics under the guidance of another Ph.D. in this lab. 

A goal of many cancer researchers is to sequence multiple gene targets across multiple individuals with cancer. This is in hopes of finding a correlation between sequence differences and cancer. By traditional methods of gene isolation and sequencing, the cost of this would be astronomical. More inexpensive means are needed to pull target genes from the genome for sequencing.

My project is looking at effective means of using DNA probes to pull multiple, specific DNA targets from a genome for sequencing. 

During this internship I have been able to observe scientific practice of an extraordinary level. The best part is being able to experience and learn it first hand. I am being taught some of the details of genomics like designing and using proper primers and reaction buffers for experiments. 

More importantly, however, I am being taught some of the broader scientific skills that can be applied to genomics or any area of research. These are skills like searching scientific literature and computer databases with efficiency for needed protocols and information. Additionally, I have been learning how to cover as much ground as possible with efficient experimentation. 

Wabash prepared me for this experience in immeasurable ways. The immediate exposure to primary literature that I received at Wabash has prepared me to search complicated papers for necessary information. Dr. David Polley arranged for an alumnus to teach a bioinformatics section in our Genetics course. That has proved useful since I must attend weekly seminars in bioinformatics. 

Dr. Eric Wetzel had also given me a chance to do independent research in his lab, and many of my friends have done the same in the labs of other encouraging professors. Dr. Wetzel took much time to help me develop solid research skills and thinking. The broad biology education in the classroom has prepared me to learn the details of a project without forgetting the larger context of it in nature. 

Finally, the intensity of the work in class and lab at Wabash has allowed me to confidently approach the problems in my project this summer. Wabash has certainly given me the preparation I needed to complete this summer internship well.