When Agne Jakubauskaite ’13 graduated in May, she transitioned directly from the biology labs at Hamilton to the Alt Lab in Boston, working on molecular genetics. Jakubauskaite is building on an impressive resume of laboratory experience and plans to eventually continue on to a Ph.D. in the field of biology.
The Alt Lab, located at the Boston Children’s Hospital, is a molecular genetics and immunology laboratory. Jakubauskaite explains that the lab is dedicated to investigating how the human genome remains stable during DNA breakages and repairs. This process is essential to the cells’ ability to develop receptors for different antigens that could invade the body. Therefore, the Alt Lab’s work has implications for antibody diversity, cancer and HIV research.
A biology major while at Hamilton, Jakubauskaite is now working under postdoctoral fellow Len Siew Yeap. They are researching how DNA sequence influences targeting of activation-induced deaminase (AID), a protein required for somatic hypermutation, the process through which the immune system adjusts to foreign elements. In their research, they are using a range of molecular biology techniques to analyze proteins and DNA, and in addition are working with cell cultures, primarily taken from mice.
Jakubauskaite’s job at Alt Lab is the culmination of extensive laboratory experience both at Hamilton and off campus. During her sophomore year, she worked with Associate Professor of Biology Michael McCormick, conducting metagenomic and geochemical studies. She stated that from that lab experience, she “not only learned a wide range of molecular and biochemical techniques, but also acquired skills for working with extensive sets of data.” The following year, she worked under Professor of Biology Herm Lehman. She credits her work with Lehman for giving her a passion for molecular biology and genetics. Last summer, Jakubauskaite took her lab experience a step further by becoming a research fellow at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge, Mass. She says that from all her lab experience, she developed research skills, critical thinking and data analysis.
The Career Center at Hamilton was helpful in finding research opportunities while she was a student and in obtaining her job at the Alt Lab. She commented, “I owe special thanks to David Bell, who helped me with absolutely everything from figuring out what exactly I want to do to actually getting there.” Andrew Portuguese ’11, who worked at the Alt Lab the past two years, notified the Career Center of a job opening. Jakubauskaite said that his enthusiasm for his experience at the lab encouraged her to apply.
Jakubauskaite has found the Alt Lab to be a perfect match for her interests in genetics and immunology. She also believes that her work there will be excellent preparation for her future studies and career. From her two years as a research assistant, she hopes to “gain more knowledge and research experience which would prepare me more fully for graduate school.” even better.” She also hopes that her time at the Alt Lab will enable her to confidently choose which field within biology to pursue in a Ph.D. Ultimately, Jakubauskaite’s first post-graduate job will provide a strong foundation for a career in biomedical research.
Jakubauskaite is a graduate of Panevežio Sauletekio Secondary School in Panevežys, Lithuania.