an e-newsletter for
and alumni of saint michael's biology department
Yields Exciting Results A recap of student/faculty research
IN THE LAB
Professor Mac Lippert, William Crall, '09 and Matt Alexander '09
Michael's NIH grant researchers, (left to right) William
Crall, Matthew Alexander and Professor Malcolm Lippert
in the lab.
Professor Lippert and his two students,
who each received $4,000 summer stipends from his
NIH grant spent
their days, and sometimes nights, in the labs at Saint Michael’s
examining the mechanisms in cells that cause mutations. Mutations
leading to the unregulated growth of cells, can result in cancers.
Thus their research seeks answers to the question of why
transcription elevates the rate of mutation, and is directly
connected to understanding and finding ways to treat and prevent
genetic diseases, particularly cancer “I really love it,” said Crall,
of Pittsfield, Mass., confirming his professor’s hopes.
The son of David and Susan Crall,
William Crall, a senior biology major, graduated from Saint Joseph
Central High School before coming to Saint Michael’s. He is a member
of the Saint Michael's varsity golf team, and a frequenter of the Pittsfield
Country Club, when he’s not in the lab. “I love doing experiments,” Crall said, “It’s like solving a puzzle.” Professor Lippert, a
resident of Jericho, Vt., said Crall’s diligence and enthusiasm
really show. “Will has really good hands for science; he’s really
organized and has really taken to it,” Lippert said.
Matthew Alexander, a senior biology
major, son of Susan Turcotte of Richmond, Vt., and Edwin Alexander
of Cambridge, Vt., graduated from Mount Mansfield Union High School
before coming to Saint Michael’s. Last summer he did biomedical
research in a lab at the University of Vermont. When not in the lab,
Alexander is running, as a member of the Saint Michael's varsity
cross-country team, but he definitely plans to pursue a career in
medicine or pure science after college. “Manipulating living cells
and trying to figure what goes on inside them is really
fascinating,” Alexander said. He explained the Saint Michael's summer research project this way: “We’re
trying to determine what lesion on DNA is causing a certain kind of
mutation when a gene is highly transcribed.” He said further, “When
you increase the rate of transcription, you get these mutations,”
which they are carefully, painstakingly measuring in the lab.
Professor Lippert was excited about
the summer work. “These guys work very well as a team; both are
excellent students, who’ve shown a lot of promise with lab skills.”
And, he added, “They are very accurate; they get good, reproducible
results. When they’ve done an experiment, I really believe the
results,” the professor said.
- Buff Lindau
IN THE LIGHT:
Professor Mark Lubkowitz, Ed Griffin '10, Amie Lank '10 and
Nick Robertson '09
Studying transporters and rice seed germination are Amie
Lank '10, Ed Griffin '10, Professor Mark Lubkowitz and
Nick Robertson '09.
Plants fulfill their energy needs by
transforming light into chemical energy through a process called
photosynthesis, but where do plants get the energy and raw materials
for building their first set of leaves? The answer is that plants
inherit a kind of “trust fund” from their parents that is stored in
the seed. When seeds germinate in the spring, they use this energy
reserve to form their first shoots, roots, and leaves. In cereal
grains such as corn, rice, and wheat the energy store is primarily
filled with starch and large proteins, which serve as a reservoir of
amino acids for synthesizing all of the protein machinery required
for normal metabolism and growth.
Accessing the amino acids in storage
proteins consists of first breaking the larger proteins into smaller
subunits followed by their transport to the seedling. This
“unloading” of the seed by transporters is critical for germination
and therefore has economic, health, and agricultural implications
since grain quality and crop success are dependent upon this
Since the majority of our calories
come from grasses such as corn, wheat, and rice the National Science
Foundation awarded Professor Mark Lubkowitz a grant to study the
role that transporters play in rice seed germination. This grant
funded three students this summer, Nick Robertson ’09, Amie Lank
'10, and Ed Griffin ’10, who worked to determine the role that
specific transporters plays in rice seed germination. Over the
course of the summer, Amie, Nick, and Ed discovered how the genes
that encode these transporters are regulated and what type of
proteins they transport within the rice seed. These are important
findings because any potential improvements on crops will require an
understanding of what can and should be changed to increase seed
loading and unloading.
IN THE FIELD:
Professor Declan McCabe, Erin Doyle '09, Ian Meyer '09, Whitney Hine
'09, Jacqueline Cote '09, Brian Cunningham '10 and Alex Canepa '10
The macroinvertebrate team at a field site during a
sampling trip to French Hill Brook in Johnson, VT. From
left to right: Erin Doyle, Whitney Hine, Ian Myers, Alex
Canepa, Brian Cunningham and Jacqueline Cote.
Photo taken by Celey Schumer.
Continuing in a long tradition of
stream ecology outreach programs established by Dan Bean and others
from the Saint Michael’s College Biology department, Declan McCabe
developed a research and outreach program focused on land-use
implications for macroinvertebrate diversity in Vermont streams.
During the 2007 planning phase,
collaborators from UVM, Middlebury College, Johnson State College,
Sterling College, Norwich University, and Saint Michael's College
Streams Project as an outreach program to Vermont and New York
high schools. The program is funded by the National Science
Foundation as part of a larger grant to
(Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research).
The program is unique in that the
undergraduate students and professors at the collaborating
institutions combined high school outreach with research-quality
data collection. The resulting data sets are being used to address
individual research goals of the professors involved, for
educational value, and to provide supplementary data to Vermont
In the 2008 field season, Erin Doyle
'09, Ian Myers '09, Whitney Hine '09, Jacqueline Cote '09, and Brian
Cunningham '10 were funded by Vermont EPSCoR to work on the project.
Alex Canepa '10 was supported by the Hartnett Endowment for her part
in the project. In early June, the six Saint Michael's College
students participated in a week-long training as part of a group of
24 students from the partner institutions. This was followed by a
week of intensive sampling in Vermont streams. The team then
participated in the training of high school teams each consisting of
a teacher and two or three students drawn from over a dozen schools
in Vermont and New York.
The central research goals include
comparing the impacts of urban, agricultural, and forested lands on
phosphorous and coliform bacteria export, and macroinvertebrate
diversity in streams. The Saint Michael's College team devoted the
lions share of it’s efforts to macroinvertenrate sampling and
identification. Individual student research projects include a
comparison of sampling techniques, an examination of the effects of
storm disturbance, and determination of the optimum
macroinvertebrate index to separate Vermont land use impacts on
The 2008 field season has already
yielded a series of web-based photographic
keys for macroinvertebrates specific to each of the streams
where high school teams will work. Six student research posters will
be presented in a project-wide symposium at UVM in Spring 2009.
Three members of the summer research team are continuing with the
project as paid technicians, or are participating in senior
research. Recruiting for new team members for the 2009 field season
will begin shortly.
Based upon very positive external
reviews of the project by AAAS, collaborators from Vermont EPSCoR
hope to include this outreach and research program in the next
funding application to NSF and to continue the program beyond the
term of the current funding cycle.
the clip below to learn more about Professor McCabe's
research in Vermont streams. Filmed for a feature on
Emerging Science, the clip will air on Vermont Public
Television in February 2009.
Note: The clip may take a few minutes to download. If
you have trouble viewing it, you can access the clip