A Summer of Research in the New Curie Hall

September 24, 2021
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Woman flashing peace sign in bio lab

A handful of students and Life Sciences faculty spent the summer collaborating on research projects in the newly opened Marie and Pierre Curie Hall.

For nine weeks, Erica Koyama ’23, worked with Susan Walsh, associate professor of molecular/cell biology and director of the Life Sciences concentration, on a project that integrated bioinformatics, cell biology, and biochemistry to determine the function of a yeast protein. Koyama was interested in applying the content she learned in textbooks to a specific research question. What surprised her during her internship was how frequently she had to troubleshoot problems to move forward in her experiments. Doing research, she learned, requires perseverance to answer a scientific question.

“Obstacles are an inherent aspect of research, and while things can get frustrating very quickly, it is important to stay patient with yourself and with your research,” she said.

She advises other students to enter the lab with an inquisitive mind and ask a lot of questions. Koyama presented her project at the SoCal Undergraduate Chemistry Research Symposium on August 6.

Woman working in bio lab

Aarohee Bhattarai ’23 worked with SUA biology professors Marie Nydam and Lisa Crummett on a project identifying marine invertebrates. Since she was a child, Bhattarai has been interested in science and wants to join a lab after graduation. Nepal, her home country, has limited science internships so she felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a laboratory at SUA for 13 weeks this summer.

Her research centered on identifying invertebrates by extracting DNA, performing PCR, and using barcode sequencing to determine the diversity of coral reefs. She also conducted biochemical assays on sea anemones to examine the relationship between light and symbiont density. Working on multiple projects, she learned the necessity of standardizing her experiments to maintain accuracy. Although she analyzed many different species, the techniques were similar and as she intends to study neuroscience, mastering them has helped prepare her. “I had wonderful peers and professors I could talk with and explore new protocols even when things did not work out,” she said.

Riley Grosso ’22, Claire Nichols ’21, and Micaela Lafrenz ’23 also worked on research projects this summer in Curie Hall. Next summer, Soka looks forward to welcoming even more student researchers into the laboratories through the generous funding of the Nieves Family Foundation, the Stauffer Family Trust, and the National Science Foundation.

— Nana Takahashi ’22