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Education into action: Translating classroom knowledge to the laboratory

Written by Joshua Nelson, BS candidate in biomedical sciences at Southeast Missouri State
University, and participant in the 2023 Institute of Public Health Summer Research

This summer, during my involvement in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research ProgramRADIANCE Track, I have had the privilege to work alongside John Murphy, PhD.

Very early into my summer experience, I was able to apply some recently attained classroom knowledge to my work in the laboratory. In the Diwan lab, I carried out the task of running Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR) on DNA samples of microscopic roundworms called C. Elegans. A brief background of C. Elegans and its significance in biological studies: Due to its similar genes in humans, it is an organism that can be used as a genetic model to study human disease. In particular, we conducted research on a special mutant strain that could not recover from stress. In order to confirm that we were observing the worms that have the correct mutant gene, we had to use PCR and gel electrophoresis. During my genetics class in college, I learned about these two processes, and in the laboratory this summer, I have been able to put this knowledge into action.

It has been a true instance of putting my education to the test. I learned that being knowledgeable about something, and actually carrying it out are two completely different processes. To my surprise, having hands-on experience in carrying out PCR and gel electrophoresis, actually gave me a more in-depth understanding of the concepts. Not only did I know what these processes were, but now I understand why we used them, and for what circumstances they are typically needed.

The simple fact of learning that PCR is a frequently used lab technique, placed a notable level of emphasis on retaining classroom knowledge and its crucial impact on our careers. I can truly say that my summer experience helped me walk away with a new-found sense of urgency and motivation for my upcoming semester. I have a primary focus on turning my studies into permanent and applicable knowledge for future opportunities.

Photo: PCR lab work/Shutterstock