Two St. Bonaventure University biology majors hung up their bathing suits and sunglasses this past summer and sported lab coats and goggles instead.
As the 2007 Borer Summer Research Scholars, Jessica Bartock and Ashish Shah spent more time in the research lab than at the beach. From May to late July, the two undertook research projects at the University under the tutelage of St. Bonaventure biology professors.
Bartock, of Rochester, continued research started by Dr. Joel Benington, professor of biology. She applied many of the same techniques of his research, but studied a different organism—yeast.
Put simply, Bartock’s project involved growing mating pairs of fission yeast in a nitrogen-rich medium and then moving them to a medium without nitrogen where they would hopefully reproduce sexually. Much of her research consisted of charting growth curves to find out how the organism grows and reproduces with different nutrient sources.
“We know that yeast in nutrient-rich medium reproduce asexually but when they are nitrogen starved they will conjugate and sexually reproduce, but what is not known is the signal for this starvation, or in other words how do they know that they are starving. It is this signal that we are trying to identify,” said Bartock, daughter of Brenda and David Bartock.
Romy Knittel, lecturer of biology at the University, mentored Bartock. Knittel explained that Bartock essentially started a brand new research project, which is no easy task.
“When you start out with a new organism, you don’t know anything. One of the features of what Jessica did is a lot of the background work, which from a student perspective may not sound very sexy,” said Knittel. “I don’t know if Jessica even appreciates the work that she’s done and the difficulties involved in starting new research. People who don’t know, who haven’t worked in a research lab, wouldn’t understand how grueling it is. It is laborious, and it doesn’t have a pretty face.”
And as with any research, the outcome is uncertain.
“A lot of this is for the experience. We don’t know if we’ll find the exact signaling molecule. But just the experience of starting this research from scratch and reading through article after article taught me a lot about different research techniques,” Bartock said.
Ashish Shah, of Edison, N.J., continued research on antibody AG-1, an antibody developed in 1988 by Dr. John Kupinski, associate professor of biology. Shah, who will be a sophomore at SBU in the fall, explained that the antibody binds to a protein called CD9 on platelets, which are essential to the blood clotting process. When this occurs the protein interacts with a glycoprotein, which initiates and activates platelet adhesion.
“Basically, when one of your blood vessels breaks open, platelets come to the site of injury and initiate the clotting process. The AG-1 antibody helps initially activate the platelets,” Shah explained.
What Shah tried to discover is the seven amino acid sequence binding site of antibody AG-1 on the CD9 surface protein. He said not a lot of research has been done about how blood clotting occurs at the molecular level.
“The research will give us a better understanding of how platelet activation occurs, how spatially all these platelet proteins interact with each other, and allow us to better understand the blood clotting process in general,” Shah said.
Shah, son of Sadhana and Vinaychandra Shah, is enrolled in the pre-medicine dual admissions program. He will be attending George Washington University Medical School after completing his remaining three years at St. Bonaventure.
Bartock, who will graduate next spring, is in the process of applying to medical school. She hopes her experience as a Borer Scholar will help her achieve her goal of becoming a specialized surgeon.
The Dr. Arnold T. Borer Summer Fellowship Program was made possible in 1992 through a major gift to the University by Gertrude Borer and her son, Francis “Frank” E. Borer, ’69. This fund is in honor of her late husband, Arnold.