(Photo: The Dawe Lab, June 2011. Denver is at the bottom left and Josiah is at the top left. Dr. Kelly Dawe is in the back middle. Photo and front page photo courtesy of The Dawe Lab.)
Summertime at KWC: Genetics in Georgia
It's summertime at Kentucky Wesleyan, and while the pace slows down, our students are still busy with jobs, internships, a few classes and even some fun. We'll take a look at a few of their stories this summer -- here's the first installment.
You might think Kentucky is hot and humid this time of year, but two Kentucky Wesleyan students are heading even deeper into the Southern heat and humidity for the summer. Andrew “Denver” Donovan, a senior biology/chemistry major, and Josiah Zachary, a junior biology/chemistry major, are spending 10 weeks conducting genetic research at the University of Georgia. Summer research programs are standard practice for students interested in scientific fields, but here’s what makes this experience unique:
1. Denver and Josiah are studying under Dr. Kelly Dawe – the same scientist who
supervised the Ph.D. work for KWC Biology Professor Dr. Evelyn Hiatt.
2. They’re studying corn. Lots of corn.
The program is a result of a National Science Foundation grant Dr. Dawe obtained to expand his research on chromosome segregation in maize. He wrote the grant specifically for KWC faculty and students, which allowed Dr. Hiatt, who earned her Ph.D. in maize research before coming to KWC nine years ago, to spend last summer in Georgia doing additional studies. A third KWC student will work in Dr. Dawe’s lab next summer.
Seven KWC students applied for the summer positions, and Dr. Dawe came to campus to interview the applicants before making his final selections. Denver, who earned his nickname from his hometown, did research at the Owensboro Cancer Research Program last summer and is looking forward to extending his knowledge. He plans to go to medical school (he’ll also be studying for the MCAT this summer), but isn’t sure yet if he’ll lean more towards general practice or working in a research setting.
“I really am excited to go where Dr. Hiatt went. It’s a driving force to make sure I try my hardest and look good for KWC and Dr. Hiatt.”
This type of research will be a new experience for Josiah, but it’s a field he wants to explore. “This will be invaluable,” he said, as he seeks a career studying genetics and possibly working with retroviruses. A native of Webster County, he hasn’t been out of western Kentucky much, so the whole summer will be a learning experience, especially since he’ll be apart from his 17-month old daughter.
Denver and Josiah will receive stipends and live in a dorm on the UGA campus paid for through the grant, but they’ll be on their own for food. They’ll eat out a lot, they said, and have already been promised home-cooked meals from some of the scientists in the lab. Their term runs from May 26 to August 1.
Both students will keep journals over the summer (check www.kwcblog.net for updates). They’ll also present their results at next year’s KWC Scholars’ Day, at the 2011 Kentucky Academy of Science Annual Meeting and hopefully at the 2012 Annual Maize Genetics Conference.
What's the Deal With the Corn?
Why study corn? That’s a question Denver said they used to joke with Dr. Hiatt about. “She always talks about maize or corn,” he said. “I would always ask, ‘Do you feel bad (guilty) eating corn?’”
Once she explained that every kernel on an ear of corn has its own DNA and is equivalent to a separate offspring, he saw how useful maize research could be. Chromosome segregation in humans has been linked to cancer, Dr. Hiatt said, so by studying the basic biology of chromosome segregation in maize, scientists may be able to determine how segregation errors lead to cancer.
Now Denver has the corn bug and wants to pass it on. “I really am excited to go where Dr. Hiatt
went,” he said. “It’s a driving force to make sure I try my hardest and look good for KWC and Dr. Hiatt.”
On the Web:
The Dawe Lab
KWC Biology Department