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Designing her own experiments and watching them work are real thrills for a student immersed in a biochemistry independent study this fall.

Marquis Scholar Janna Pachuski ’02 (Kulpmont, Pa.) is using a laboratory technique called high-performance thin-layer chromatography (HPTLC) to study amino acids in Echinostoma caproni snails, some of which are infected by a parasite. She is working with Bernard Fried, professor emeritus of biology, and Joseph Sherma, professor emeritus of chemistry.

“I spent last summer doing EXCEL research in this same area,” says Pachuski. “Now that I have gotten most of the kinks out, I can run the experiments by myself as well as design them. I know enough about the experiment to just go to either professor when I have results or to see them about another direction for the project.”

“I get excited when my experiments work,” the student adds. “Science is not always kind, and you have to go through many failures to get one success. When I succeed, I am excited.”

In her experiment, Pachuski kills the snails, removes their shells, and collects their hemolymph, which is something like human blood, along with the digestive gland and gonad. She then crushes the snails and extracts and identifies their amino acids.

According to Fried, the purpose of the basic research is to see if the parasite will deplete and change the pattern of amino acids in the snail. “It’s a very good experience for the student to maintain the parasite-host system, collect and analyze the data, and write it up for publication,” he says, adding that Pachuski is doing “an excellent job.”

Pachuski says she enjoys working with both professors and that the independent study in both chemistry and biology suits her major nicely.

“I think the professors are highly qualified and do care about my research,” she adds. “They are always there if you need to ask them anything and their experience in this area is astounding.”

She believes Lafayette provides a good learning experience for this type of project because as a smaller school, it allows for more student-teacher interaction and one-on-one projects.

“The greatest thing about the independent study is that you make your own hours, so you can work around many of your classes,” Pachuski says.

A member of the College Choir and Madrigal Ensemble, she is a chemistry teaching assistant and tutor, and vice president of the Lafayette chapter of the American Chemical Society. She also participates in Lafayette Christian Fellowship.

Categorized in: Academic News