Internship Leads to Potential Groundbreaking Discovery

Posted by Janae Melvin on October 15, 2015 in and, Arts, Biology, Nematodes, Ottawa, rRNA, Sciences When asked how she spent her summer vacation, senior Hope Waisner has a response that’s different than most of her peers. While many of her classmates were working or vacationing, Waisner was in North Dakota researching genetics. Or, more specifically, looking at the gene operon of the rRNA in nematodes. 

Waisner, a biology major, was chosen to participate in a summer research internship program at the University of North Dakota. One of around 10 undergraduates in the program, they were looking at the set of genes that code for rRNA and trying to determine the copy code of the nematode. She said that while this has been done on a couple different organisms in the past, this is the first time anyone has looked at how to copy the number of nematodes that they were working with. 

“We found two different techniques for determining the rRNA copy number, but the information cannot be totally trusted yet,” said Waisner. “Several more studies will need to be completed before we know if we did discover something new. But it’s exciting to know that the work I helped with may have been groundbreaking.”

The professor at UND that Waisner studied under teaches in addition to conducting research, which is fairly unusual at larger universities. She appreciated that her professor was comfortable and willing to teach her.
“I was doing techniques and processes that I had never done before, and he was very patient with me,” she said. “By the end of the summer, I was able to do research techniques that I couldn’t when I arrived. I learned a lot over the summer.”
Waisner applied to several summer programs that would allow her to conduct research on a larger scale, something she isn’t able to do here at OU. The program she was chosen to participate in caters to students from smaller, private universities where the funding for research can be quite limited. She knew that in order to reach her goals she would have to seek opportunities outside of Ottawa. However, while OU may have limitations when it comes to lab facilities and research equipment, Waisner believes that it is a great place for biology students to begin their education. 
“I’ve made some good connections with students and professors at OU,” Waisner said. “Professors and administrators know who you are and know your name. I like that I can walk into a professor’s office and talk to them about any concerns I may have or ask questions about any number of topics. They have had a really big impact and interests and shaping my views on higher education. I’ve learned so much here. Even after talking to fellow students who were in the summer internship program that go to larger schools, I feel like I have a really good handle on the information that I need in order to move to the next level.”
That next level for Waisner is graduate school and obtaining a PhD in microbiology or a similar field. She ultimately wants to work with level 4 containment viruses, like Ebola, at a large research facility like the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  She wants to do research into the potential for vaccinations for these types of viruses and hopefully one day saving lives around the world.
Waisner knows that while her summer was a little unconventional, shereally believes it’s important for all students to take a chance and pursue their dreams.

“As students, we have a hard time putting ourselves out there,” she said. “We have a hard time feeling confident in ourselves and our skills and are scared to take a chance. I went to North Dakota and I loved it. If I wasn’t confident in myself to do that, I never would have had the experience. There is no reason that you shouldn’t do something out of your comfort zone. Maybe it’ll be a good experience, maybe not, but you never know unless you try.”