One undergraduate researcher builds on the work of another.
Proteins can be tricky. The exact function of Serum amyloid A, or SAA, is unknown, but its presence is implicated in many diseases, such as heart attacks, stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Vera Valakh, now a Neuroscience Ph.D. student at Washington University, started a project as an undergraduate researcher here at Rensselaer, and showed that SAA is required for cholesterol transport.
Her graduation left an opening in the lab of Patrick Page-McCaw, Assistant Professor of Biology. This year, Valakh’s SAA work is continued by Emma Furlano. The sophomore had asked Page-McCaw, her adviser, about undergraduate research.
“I had wanted to complete research as an undergraduate, in order to decide if I want to go with the research route with my biology degree,” Furlano said. “My adviser had an opening in his lab and his research was interesting to me so I joined.”
Working in the lab gave her basic research skills, as well as the chance to work with genes, especially those that have an influence on the body’s neurological system, which interested her greatly. Working in a lab also differed from some of Furlano’s expectations.
“I thought that I would be supervised more then I am,” she said. “Once I know something, I can go off and do my own work, and am not being constantly shadowed. Also, I can make suggestions and ask questions to my professor that I work under, without fear of appearing to be ignorant.
Furlano cites many advantages lab work gives her.
“I am learning how to time manage, by having to schedule my lab work, schoolwork, and social life. I am also learning many lab techniques, such as completing florescence stains. I am figuring how to take my theoretical knowledge and apply it practical situations. Finally, I am becoming more adept at taking my research and creating strong arguments for its validity during my lab presentations,” she said.