2018 Grant Award: Krista Grennan

The Presidential Leadership Academy Grant allowed me to continue my honors thesis research this summer in the Paulson Laboratory, while also allowing me to work part-time in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the Pennsylvania State University. I worked approximately 40 hours per week between both of these positions.

In my honors thesis lab, I was able to gain a better understanding of my research project as a whole. I am utilizing a leading-edge CRISPR/Cas9 technique to silence the HMGA2 gene. This version of CRISPR/Cas9 uses a nuclease-inactive dCas9 that is fused to the Krüppel-associated box (KRAB) repressor (dCas9-KRAB). This blocks the transcriptional start site, so that the gene does not get expressed.

I am still in the process of completing this procedure, but the main goal of my honors thesis is to assay the effects of the suppression of HMGA2 in order to determine its role in stress erythropoiesis. Stress erythropoiesis is the biological process of making erythrocytes (red blood cells) under physiological stress conditions like anemia.

HMGA2 is a transcriptional cofactor that is the main regulatory gene for several additional genes that are involved in the processes of cell differentiation and proliferation. It is also activated during stress erythropoiesis.

Overall, I was able to complete a significant portion of my honors thesis with the financial support of this grant.

I also performed research with Dr. Gary Adler on his research project in the Department of Sociology and Criminology with the funds provided to me by the Presidential Leadership Academy. This ongoing research project focuses on the interactions of church and state at the local and national level.

I helped to create a code book in the computer program ATLAS.ti. I then used this code book to code articles from The New York Times that discussed church and state interactions, including prayer in public schools, same-sex marriage, and workplace disputes. I also helped to create interview questions and will be interviewing local religious officials about their experiences with local government during this academic year.

The Presidential Leadership Academy Grant made these two unique research experiences possible for me. These research experiences have enriched my undergraduate education, and they were both interesting to me because my two majors are Immunology and Infectious Disease and Sociology. I am very grateful to have been award this grant.