Research Update 1 – Welcome to the Young Lab

This summer I will be completing 7 weeks of research with the Young biochemistry lab on campus at the college of William and Mary. This is my second year doing research in the same lab, and I am excited to continue progress on old projects as well as take on new biochemical challenges. Our lab group is larger this year (we now have eight members compared to last year’s five), which has both positive and negative consequences. While it is helpful to have more people able to consult and advise each other about highly specialized projects, there is a limited amount of supplies as well as a select number of machines available for our use. I can already tell that planning ahead and conserving supplies will be more important this summer than it has in the past.

Dr. Doug Young, PhD (our lab director and advisor, essentially the head of everything that goes on in the lab) has given me three potential projects to start on this summer. Work in the lab requires a lot of multitasking, and there will always be several reactions and processes underway at any given time. While it may appear hectic at times, with good record keeping in our lab notebooks we are able to maintain order and stay on top of our various enterprises.

My top priority for this research period is to finish up a project that was started by a previous lab member, Diya Uthappa, by collecting a final piece of data and writing up our key findings. This project involves work with protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) as well as my unnatural amino acid (UAA) called ortho nitro-benzyl Tyrosine (ONBY), which I worked on extensively last summer. I hope to complete a final assay to be used in the final paper, and hopefully assist in writing up the paper to be submitted for publication.

The second project will be in conjunction with Dr. McNamara (an inorganic chemist), in which will be studying the mechanism behind a Glaser-Hay reaction run organically (in water) in our lab. While we have utilized this reaction many times in the past, the goal of my research will be to understand and illustrate the underlying mechanism behind the reaction.

My final project is to assist one of our older lab members, Chris Travis, with his synthesis and purification of ubiquitin protein. This is a project taken over from an old member of the lab, so we will be continuing his work and improving the efficiency of the technique.

One distinct difference I have already found between last summer and now is my ability to troubleshoot issues without the need to consult other lab members. Last summer, I was too afraid of making mistakes any time I was not exactly following protocol to even consider fixing things another way. I figured that if it had not been done before, I could not (or at least, should not) do it now. This summer, however, I have acquired enough experience and confidence in the lab so feel secure in trying new techniques and altering my approach when reactions don’t go exactly as planned. I have gained a deep enough understanding of the chemical and biological mechanisms behind the procedures to be able to think critically and determine an alternate course of action. I hope that, by the end of the summer, I will  be able to take this level of critical thinking to the next level in order to gain the best possible results for my projects.



  1. gllesser says:

    You talked about working on some of your own projects as well as some that you are taking over from past students. Do you feel like it is more difficult to start something from scratch or to try to pickup where another student left off?
    Related to you learning how to troubleshoot after having more experience in the lab, you can probably apply experiences you’ve gained in each of your different projects to overcoming new problems that arise. Best of luck!

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