Michelle ChenMichelle Chen

Major: Biochemistry       
Expected Graduation: Class of 2016            
Hometown: Washington Township, NJ

Project title: "Characterization of Human Monocyte Cells with CFTR Gene Modified Using the CRISPR-Cas9 System to Express the R117H Mutation"
Mentor
: Mitchell Drumm Ph.D.
Mentor Department: Genetics and Genome Sciences

How did you become involved in undergraduate research at CASE? 
I began working in my current lab at the beginning of my sophomore year. The summer before, I volunteered in a lab at the University of Pennsylvania that was studying Cystic Fibrosis. I found the topic to be very interesting so I decided to try and find a lab at Case that was researching something similar.

How did you find your mentor? 
I didn't do anything too complicated. I just went on Case's website and looked for professors who were researching things that interested me, and I reached out to them through email. I knew that at the very least I wanted to work in the genetics department, and when I found out that Dr. Drumm's lab was also studying Cystic Fibrosis, it seemed to be a perfect fit.

How has your idea/project evolved through the academic years? 
We've run into several problems during the two years that I've been working on this project, but we always just adapt and make do with what we can. My original project was to work with airway epithelial cells, but they take three months to grow up and the entire incubator ended up getting contaminated. So then I switched to human monocyte cells because they grew more quickly, but the efficiency wasn't good and I ended up with no results. Now I'm working to transfect the mutation into human epithelial colorectal cells.

What successes or difficulties have you encountered in this project or others? 
One of my graduate student co-workers likes to say that if you can get 10% of your experiments to work, you're doing well. Over the course of my project, I've run into several obstacles from incubator contaminations that have caused all of my cells to die to none of my cultures having the mutation I wanted, causing me to waste weeks of work. But even through all of the challenges, I have had some successes as well, such as when I was able to optimize our DNA isolation technique so that we wouldn't need as many cells per sample. Even just learning a new lab technique is something that I would count as a success.

If you could summarize your experience in one word, what would it be? 
Worthwhile

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Gilad Doron '16

[Biomedical Engineering Major] Project Title: Optimization of Targeted Nanoparticle Treatment of Breast Cancer

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William Qu '16

[Biochemistry Major] "[My summer research] experience exposed me to the reality behind experimental design ... my mentor allowed me to design my own experiments, which subsequently exposed me to the unpredictable nature of science ... [It was] extremely rewarding, especially when the results you receive is directly linked to improving the lives of others."