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Biology major Mary Guinan ’03 (Newtown Square, Pa.) learned and used molecular biology techniques and gene sequencing for ten weeks this summer at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pa. The research was part of an effort to develop improved medication to treat hypertension.

She was prepared for the intense, independent research environment by her education in Lafayette’s biology department.

”One of Lafayette’s strengths is its support of undergraduate research,” says Guinan, who is conducting an independent study this semester with Laurie Caslake, assistant professor of biology. ”Lafayette not only allows you the opportunity to do an honors thesis, but also to just simply get the experience of independent research.”

Like another Lafayette biology major at the institute this summer, Colleen Fitzpatrick ‘04 (Springfield, Pa.), Guinan found the internship opportunity through Lafayette’s Career Services Job Vault. She worked independently and without collaboration at LIMR, yet under the instruction of Robert Cox, director of the ion channel laboratory.

”I concentrated on the expression of calcium channels and their subunits in normal and hypertensive (associated with high blood pressure) human and rat samples,” Guinan explains. ”I used molecular biology techniques as well as gene sequencing to find a difference between the gene expression of normal and hypertensive samples. The final goal in Dr. Cox’s lab is to hopefully lead to a finding that could support a more specific hypertension drug.”

Each week, Guinan met with fellow interns from different labs and a primary investigator from the institute, who presented an overview of experiments and discoveries at LIMR. After eight weeks, she gave a presentation to the staff of LIMR to explain her research and findings.

”I found the research institute’s atmosphere to be very interesting,” she says. ”I am involved in independent study here at Lafayette, but had never been a part of a research
institute. I found all of the different and specific topics being studied at the institute very interesting.”

The internship helped Guinan clarify her career direction; she plans to enter a school for prospective physician assistants after graduating.

”I learned from this experience that I am more suited for a career with more personal interaction,” she says. ”This was not a negative discovery, for I am now more focused on my future career plans. I enjoyed my experience greatly. I enjoyed getting to know the other interns as well as the staff of the institute.”

Guinan is a teaching assistant for Environmental Biology this semester and will be one for Developmental Biology in the spring. She is a past member of HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Now, which teaches local public school children about HIV/AIDS. Next semester, she hopes to intern at a local hospital to observe physician assistants and the role they play in the health care environment.

Categorized in: Academic News