an e-newsletter for students and alumni of saint michael's biology department

Student Spotlight
Q & A with a biology major





Nicholas Robertson '09

Chester, NH

Career Interests:
Forensic Medicine (Pathology)


What has your Saint Michael's experience been like, particularly your experience as a biology major?

My experience at Saint Michaelís College has been one of growth and development, both personally and academically. As a transfer student in the beginning of my second year of college, I struggled to set up a solid foundation in my courses as well as with friends. After gaining a true grasp of what a liberal arts education is all about, I began to establish my roots, both inside and outside of the classroom. I came to Saint Mikeís with a plan to become an orthopedic surgeon, but after my biology professors opened my eyes to the large variety of disciplines within the biological sciences, I fell in love with cellular/molecular biology as well as the areas of physiology and anatomy. It is for these reasons that I have developed a newly founded passion for biomedical sciences. In truth, I have found true joy in bridging the gaps among the various fields of education, as well as opening dialogue with my professors to help me grow personally and academically.

Explain your research project.

I worked with two other students and Professor Mark Lubkowitz on a detailed investigation of how the nutrients necessary for embryonic development in seeds are transported from the endosperm (nutrient storage location) to the embryo. In cereal grains like corn, rice, and wheat, the endosperm is chiefly comprised of proteins and starches. These nutrients are the main source of amino acids needed to produce the protein-dependent structures during development that are necessary to properly grow and sustain viability. In order for these amino acids to reach the embryo in a seed, they must be transported from the endosperm. The direct mechanism for the transport of these amino acids is currently unknown but is crucial in the successful maturation of these plants.

We focused on extracting RNA from yeast colonies that contain various oligopeptide transporters (OPTs) and reverse transcribing the RNA into cDNA to create a library of the genes encoding for transporter proteins. Simultaneously we worked with these OPTs in order to test which specific nutrients they are responsible for transporting. I also worked with OPT-9 to test its role in transporting glutathione. By obtaining these data we hope to understand the mechanism responsible for the transport of these critical nutrients in the plants that play a significant role in our lives.

What are your post-graduate plans?

I will attend the Boston University School of Medicine (Department of Graduate Medical Sciences) to study biomedical forensics. This unique degree opportunity allows me to hone in on the areas of biology that I am truly interested in and to continue working as a research assistant which I have come to really enjoy, this time in a hospital setting.



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