Biology 600/610 Students Showcase Their Independent Research in Eureka! A Night of Discovery

Zahra Bhaiwala’s hours crouched over a microscope are finally paying off. On Wednesday night she will present her findings on brain cancer along with the other Biology 600/610 students. After months of work in the laboratory and on independent research, the students will showcase their findings during “Eureka! A Night of Discovery!” They have been working on research projects that focus on biological medicine, spinal cord injuries, and gene splicing, using modern approaches similar to those of professional bio-tech labs around the world. Bhaiwala’s project focused primarily on the protein CD155, a protein involved with the polio virus. She explained, “I was originally interested in polio because my great grandfather died of polio and polio still effects many of the countries where my extended family lives today. I came across a study at Duke and modified it to fit the resources available to me.” Luke Hansen ’11 focused on the genetic makeup of worms for his yearlong project. Bhaiwala and Hansen will be presenting lectures on their respective topics at the event while others will be presenting posters. According to the course catalog, “[Biology 600/610] Experiments are centered on the molecular genetics of microorganisms, including the isolation, cutting, and splicing of DNA by recombinant DNA biotechnologies, and the polymerase chain reaction. After learning a core of methodologies that are used in professional labs, students apply them to short, focused research projects in biotechnology.” Dr. Christine Marshall, Instructor in Biology and Advisor to Biology 600/610 said, “This is a chance for the entire Andover community to learn what these kids have been doing. These projects are unlike any you could find at another school. The students really focus on the cutting edge, sophisticated approaches using the same techniques as professional biologists.” The students in the class divided into two groups, one focusing on the genetic make-up of worms and the other focusing on brain cancer. Gauri Thaker ’10 said, “[Researching] was always hard because of the little things that can go wrong. Getting past that and learning to except that one experiment can go wrong was a very valuable experience.” Thaker studied brain cancer for two terms for the Biology 600/610 program. “I hope students realize the time and effort and passion we put into our work,” said Thaker. “You can go through the entire process and not fully understand everything because of the complexity of the work. We worked so hard to get to the level we are at now.” Marshall said, “My [students] have been a lot of fun. They have lots of positive energy and they work well as a team. They formed their own community and worked to overcome some of the challenges that come with working at such a high level.” Thaker commented, “We were taught how to go about injecting cells with genes, how to work in a bio-tech lab, work with the chemicals, do the math, the processes, and so much more. [Dr. Marshall] is really sweet and understanding as a teacher.” Zhara Bhaiwala ’10 said, “Dr. Marshall is the queen of the lab. She knows everyone’s projects like the back of her hand. She is always present for experiments and she is in the lab all the time. We go to her with an idea we are interested in and she helps us develop it.” According to Bhaiwala, Biology 600/610 is not just for people who are “science people.” She said, “I never really was that good at chemistry or physics and I wasn’t even the strongest biology person. I took biology upper year but I wasn’t in the highest level or anything like that. I got in to the class because I was interested in taking it, and I learned so much. Being in this class allowed me to see how biology is applied. It is very relatable as we are working often with the human body.” Marshall said, “These students really depended on each other. They had to troubleshoot, learn, and work together for extended periods of time and I am impressed with the outcome. They worked very hard and I’m glad that they can showcase their work at ‘Eureka! Night of Discovery!’” Students were required to have a strong record of performance in biology, recommendations from house counselors, and a strong GPA in order to participate. Marshall said, “It’s not difficult in the sense that a typical class is difficult. In this class students are asked to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone. They are independently motivated and just require a mentor.” The poster presentations will occur from 5:30 to 7:00 in the Mural Room of Commons. At seven, short 15-minute lectures will occur in the Blue and Gray rooms.