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Biology major Ashley Rettew ’05 (Jonestown, Pa.) co-authored an article on her collaborative research that was published in the June 2004 edition of the scientific journal Genomics.

“Being published is a major accomplishment and is very important for one’s career in scientific research,” says Rettew. “I am thrilled.”

She is spending her third summer working with Sarah K. Bronson in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Penn State College of Medicine. The collaboration began when Rettew was still in high school, and the two have collaborated during summer and winter breaks since then.

The research has focused on genetically altered mice, which, according to Bronson, are key tools in understanding human development and disease.

Rettew has assisted in developing a new methodology that enables large pieces of human chromosomes to be transferred to a mouse cell. The chromosome is placed into the mouse’s genetic makeup through stem cells injected into a mouse embryo. The mouse transmits the genetic change to future generations, enabling Bronson and her team to study the effects of the genetic alteration on bone development.

Many of the lab experiments that Rettew is conducting were learned at Lafayette, she notes.

“Part of scientific research anywhere is reading the literature that pertains to the experiments going on in the lab,” she adds. “Scientific papers were read, analyzed, and discussed in my classes at Lafayette, such as Molecular Biology and Evolutionary Biology, which prepared me for reading the many articles I have read at Penn State.”

Rettew credits Lafayette’s biology program for building a basis for her experiences at Penn State.

“Lafayette has a very strong biology department with a wonderful reputation,” she says. “The class labs at Lafayette are a good example of laboratory science and the classes are intellectually challenging. The research at Lafayette and the ability for students to get involved in the research is a strength.”

Rettew took the initiative to seek a research opportunity she could start in high school, which led to entry into a formal internship program that developed after she began working at Penn State.

“After two weeks that first summer, it was clear that we wanted her to come back the following summer,” Bronson says. “Ashley is pretty quiet; however, in the past couple of years she has become more of a presence in the lab. I think her confidence has grown a lot over time and certainly her understanding of the project and beyond has as well.”

“Ashley is patient, consistent, hard working, smart and she has great hands,” she adds. “Having great hands is actually pretty important in science. It’s sort of a physical common sense and it’s very helpful.”

Rettew credits Lafayette’s biology program with building a foundation for contributing to the research project with Bronson.

“I’ve obtained skills that prepared me for biology labs at Lafayette and that prepare me for my future graduate studies,” she says.

She is a graduate of Northern Lebanon High School.

Categorized in: Academic News