SMCC students conduct biomedical research at MDI Biological Laboratory

Eleven SMCC students and two faculty members spent part of their winter break conducting biomedical laboratory research on zebrafish for an intensive course at the MDI Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in Bar Harbor.

The students and Professors Daniel Moore and Lareen Smith spent a week at MDIBL in early January for a five-day course in which students performed research on zebrafish using fluorescence microscopy, while also utilizing several other molecular biology techniques.

Among the students was Natalie Robbins, a biotechnology major who said conducting a full research project in one week was a great experience.

“I learned so much in one week from experiment design to conducting research in the lab through analyzing results,” she said. “The course was a great introduction into everything incorporated in a research field, and all of the different career paths that there are.”

For the class, students visualized and quantified the response of fluorescently labeled immune cells to a tail fin injury in zebrafish. The response was measured in conditions with and without cortisol (a hormone that regulates inflammation) for both normal zebrafish and zebrafish that lack a functional copy of a gene involved in regeneration and cell proliferation, as well as being a regulator of the immune response to cortisol.

As a side project, students genotyped mutant zebrafish using DNA extraction and techniques known as polymerase chain reaction, high-resolution melt analysis, and Sanger sequencing of DNA.

The class was led by Ian Gans, a University of Maine graduate student at MDI Biological Laboratory, with help from Moore and Smith. Besides Robbins, other students in the class were Abigail Ackor (Biotechnology); Benjamin Blanchard (Liberal Studies-Science); Benjamin Clifford (Biotechnology); Ashley Gilman (Marine Science); David Glass (Marine Science); Nathan Leslie (Liberal Studies-Prenursing); Maria Orellana Rosales (Biotechnology); Masen Pelletier (Biotechnology); Michael Sukaloski (Dietetics and Nutrition); and Theoharis Vocal (Biotechnology).

“This was an invaluable experience, and I feel so lucky to have taken part in it,” Glass said. “This exposure to science in a lab was a great way to get a hands-on lab experience.”

Blanchard added: “A uniquely invigorating experience that set my soul ablaze with inspiration.”

The course is supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institutes of Health. This is the 11th year of support from this grant, and it has also paid for SMCC students to do summer fellowships at research institutions including Bowdoin College, Bates College, University of New England, University of Southern Maine, MDI Biological Laboratory and Maine Medical Center Research Institute.

For more photos from the class, please visit the class’s Flickr album on SMCC’s Flickr account.