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A nasty Third World disease may take another blow from Lafayette’s biology department as a student adds to scientists’ knowledge by investigating amino acids in infected snails.

Janna Pachuski ’02 is analyzing the amino acids in Biomphalaria glabrata snails and in the Schistosoma mansoni infecting them. The infection “will go right into your skin and travel to the digestive system,” says Pachuski, a biochemistry major. “It causes cirrhosis of the liver, and may go into your intestine and compete for your food supply. We’re really careful. We wear gloves and lab coats, and we’re fine.”

She is working with Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology, and Joseph Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, in Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholar program. In EXCEL, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend.

“We’re studying what’s infecting the snail in hopes that someone will be able to use the information in their studies of the disease,” says Pachuski. The infection plagues Third World areas where the water isn’t clean. She will take isolate the snails to obtain the infection and prepare samples of the snails’ tissue and blood. Pachuski will use high performance thin layer chromatography to analyze the amino acids in the snails’ tissue and blood, and the infection itself.

“EXCEL work’s great,” she says. “It’s like a regular job, and you get to do your own research,” says Pachuski. “Plus, you get to meet people this summer on campus that you probably wouldn’t meet when you’re locked into your major. I’m rooming with a psychology major.”

She adds that the professors give her 100 percent of their attention. “If I have an idea, they let me try it out. I design the experiments and they advise me,” says Pachuski, who will be applying to medical school.

A graduate of Mount Carmel Area Junior/Senior High School in Mount Carmel, Pa., she is a member of the chemistry club and the choir and madrigal singing ensembles.

Categorized in: Academic News