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Lessons in the lab and in life

January 9, 2024
Junior Emma Kane and seniors Michelle Perales Panduro and Samuel Ghali spent their summers in the lab at prestigious universities and institutes around the world making not only scientific discoveries, but also self-discoveries.

Using Bacteriophage to Treat Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria

Emma Kane, '25
French and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Major

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S., more than 2.8 million people develop multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections each year and more than 35,000 people die as a result, making it a major global health threat.

Enter Emma Kane, ’25, who spent her summer studying at the Paul Turner Lab at Yale University, which primarily investigates bacteriophages, a virus that can infect and kill specific bacteria, such as MDR.

After learning about MDR bacteria, and reading past studies from her mentors in the lab, Kane developed her own research questions to pursue.

“My greatest accomplishment this summer was developing my own research project. I started investigating how antibiotics and bacteriophages can be used in combination treatments against various infections. This is called phage-antibiotic synergy and is what I hope to continue studying after I graduate,” she said.

During her time at the lab, she was able to participate in various research projects in addition to her work with bacteriophages, including the effects of unprecedented rain in the northeast on bacterial content in Connecticut beaches.

Kane also learned first-hand what it would be like to be a researcher.

“Before this internship, I thought that a career in research would lack the more social elements of other professions. This was a concern of mine because I value collaborative environments filled with opportunities to talk with and learn from new people. After this internship, I realize that research can be so much more than those hours you spend working at the bench. This summer, I was surrounded by an entire community of scientists who were not only widely accomplished, but also approachable and kind. I will cherish the lessons I learned and the connections I formed during my time here for long after my internship ends," said Kane.

Creating Empathy and Understanding for Those with Mental Illness

Samuel Ghali, '24
Psychology Major

Samuel Ghali, ’24, completed an internship at the University of Oxford in Dr. Geoff Bird’s lab conducting and coding qualitative interviews on autism, anxiety, interoception, and eating disorders.

“For my internship, I wanted to learn more about mental health using qualitative research and interviews to construct a more holistic understanding of the individual. By doing so, I can share their stories with people inside and outside the academic community to bring attention to certain issues and create a more empathetic and receptive cultural environment,” said Ghali.

Turns out, he would need to give himself that same empathy.

“Before heading abroad, I never studied more than 20 minutes away from home and I was nervous about how I’d manage,” Ghali said. “What I learned was that everybody who comes to Oxford feels like an imposter at first. It can be an intense environment, with worries of inadequacy, but the truth everyone learns is that it doesn't have to be that way. Everyone is on their own journey and looking for friends. My advice for anyone is to be honest, and most importantly, be yourself.”

He wants to continue his qualitative research after graduating and focus on the roles of religion and spirituality on how we perceive and treat mental health problems.

Studying Hereditary Disorders That Damages the Nerves

Michelle Perales Panduro, '24
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Major

Michelle Perales Panduro, ’24, conducted hands-on research at the renowned Salk Institute for Biological Studies, founded by Jonas Salk, the developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine.

Panduro’s research focused on the role of the INF2 protein in Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) Disease, an incurable hereditary neurological disorder that damages nerves in the arms and legs, and its impact on organelle function.

This research hit home and was especially important to Panduro as someone diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome, an incurable kidney disease.

“My internship at the Salk Institute not only solidified my passion for science and research, but also provided me with the leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills that I will carry on with me during graduate school and my career in the biotechnology industry,” said Panduro. “Regardless of whether I choose to follow a path in industry or academia, I know I will follow a path that significantly contributes to research on incurable diseases, like my own.”

In just ten weeks at her internship, Panduro and her team were able to conduct more than 17 different experiments resulting in the generation of significant data about CMT. She hopes their findings will have a meaningful influence on drug development for the disease.