This is one of the highlights of my entire Bridgewater career. Being a research student and being in the sciences gives you so much opportunity.
Guided by what she could see in the eyepieces of a microscope, Alexis Anzalone, ’22, deftly maneuvered a small, needle-like tool to inject messenger RNA into a fish embryo. The delicate procedure was a crucial step in research the biology major and her Bridgewater State University peers recently conducted at a world-renowned scientific organization.
“This has been such an exciting experience,” Alexis said of spending spring break with 11 classmates at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. “I never pictured myself at a research institution like this.”
The combination class/internship challenges students to investigate the effectiveness of systems of tagging proteins. Tagging is important because it allows scientists to track where proteins go in cells and understand their functions.
This is the kind of high-level science that is done regularly at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), which was founded in 1888 and is today a private nonprofit institution that primarily explores issues around biodiversity and the environment. BSU has a longstanding partnership with this prestigious research institution.
At BSU, students formed DNA constructs that were transcribed into messenger RNA containing instructions for building proteins with different tagging systems. At the MBL, they injected the messenger RNA into fish embryos and monitored the ensuing proteins. They will present their work on campus later this semester.
The experience turns theoretical concepts discussed in classes into tangible experiments, said Dr. Ken Adams, an associate professor who taught the course with biological sciences colleague Meri Krevosky.
"They’re learning how new science actually happens,” Dr. Krevosky said. “It’s not always straightforward. There’s a lot of troubleshooting.”
MBL scientists love working on their research with eager students, said Dr. Linda Hyman, the MBL's director of education.
"They’re getting in there and doing real science,” she said. “Our faculty don’t know the answer to the questions (students research). We’re asking the same questions.”
The initiative is also supported by Promega Corporation, a biotechnology and molecular biology company, and the Blue Economy Internship Program, a state effort to build students’ life science and technology skills.
Students lived on the MBL’s Woods Hole campus, sleeping in dorms a short walk from the laboratory. They formed connections in ways impossible in a traditional course.
“In a lab setting, that camaraderie is really important,” said Richard Durant, ’24, a chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration from Bridgewater. “You can ask 11 other people and they will try their best to help each other out.”
Richard, who transferred to BSU after struggling at his first college, said Bridgewater offered a fresh start leading to unique experiences such as this course.
“This is one of the highlights of my entire Bridgewater career,” said Jannah Addn Elshaar, ’23, of Easton, a chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration and minors in biology and psychology. “Being a research student and being in the sciences gives you so much opportunity.”
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