2018 Grant Award: Bridget Cannata

The generous grant provided to me by the Presidential Leadership Academy made it financially possible for me to live in State College this past summer and conduct undergraduate research. I worked in the Paulson Laboratory, a hematology lab that conducts research to study the body’s physiologic response to anemic stress. More specifically, this research lab seeks to better understand the role of stress erythropoiesis under stress conditions.

This summer I began the early stages of research for my independent honors thesis. I am studying the role that the Lin28B gene plays in the mechanism of stress erythropoiesis. I will do this by knocking down the Lin28B gene using CRISPR-Cas 9 in a generated lentivirus therefore, creating a mutation. I will insert the edited lentivirus into mouse bone marrow cells that express Cas 9. I will then culture these cells to create stress progenitors and assaythe cellsto determine if the knocking down of the Lin28B gene had a blocking effect on the proliferation of stress erythroid progenitors.

Although I did not carry out this experiment to completion over the summer, I was able to learn a significant amount of the laboratory procedure. I was able to become more comfortable with the tools and materials used in my lab, as well as the general procedures that are utilized to carry out this type of research. Overall, I now feel like a more educated and independent researcher.

Additionally, my summer research experience taught me how to problem solve and cope with failure. Despite the fact that I followed the designated protocol for my experiments, I frequently did not get the results that I was seeking. It was frustrating to feel like no progress was being made. However, each time that I did not obtain successful results I discussed the outcomes with some of the experienced graduate students in my lab who have carried out very similar work. Together we would try to identify possible sources of error and the areas in which the protocol can be improved. I would then make adjustments to my procedure and repeat the process.

This cycle of trial and error allowed me to better understand the biological processes that occur at each step of the protocol, rather than me just understanding the motions of the procedure. It also forced me to exercise my problem-solving skills, which I know can have applications in all areas of life.

Overall, the research that I conducted this summer was a largely beneficial learning experience. I am now more prepared to continue my undergraduate thesis research more independently over the course of this academic year, while balancing classes and other activities. I am grateful to have received a summer grant from the Presidential Leadership Academy because it provided me with this impactful educational opportunity.