Matthew Crowson '09 Spends Summer as Intern at Ottawa Heart Institute
Crowson Received Funding From the Jeffrey Fund for Science
By Lisbeth Redfield
August 21, 2006
Science research is popular as a summer activity for Hamilton students, but most of them do their work on the Hill in the new Science Center. Matthew Crowson '09 (Kanata, Ontario) was one of the few who worked off-campus. Crowson, an undeclared biology or biochemistry major, spent his summer as a research assistant/intern at The John & Jennifer Ruddy Canadian Cardiovascular Genetics Centre at the Ottawa Heart Institute.
Crowson was one of 13 Hamiltonians who was awarded funding through the College to pursue a summer internship. Thanks to generous grants from alumni and parents, Hamilton students can apply for funding to support them while they work in a field of interest with an organization that cannot pay them. Though Crowson worked in what is known as an "unpaid internship," he received money from the Jeffrey Fund for Science, which provides stipends for off-campus student internships in the sciences and/or on-campus faculty-student collaborative research projects in the sciences.
Crowson's research dealt with cardiac genetics. As he explained it, "there is a 'chunk' of sequence on chromosome 12 that codes for a transcription factor [which] has been shown to induce the 'multiplying' or 'creation' of skeletal muscle cells in the humans." This sequence, called hRTEF-1, can be induced in cardiac muscle cells when under the right conditions.
The lab was hoping to produce these cardiac muscle cells in the lab, an attempt which required the team to locate and isolate the hRTEF-1 (Crowson's assignment and, eventually, contribution). Once found, it could be cloned and grown in E. coli bacteria. Possible applications of this type of research include "stem-cell or other therapies to fix such problems [as] muscular dystrophy, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), or coronary artery disease."
Crowson, a rising sophomore, is ambitious and was conspicuously the youngest in his lab. He admitted that the learning curve was steep. "With two biology courses with labs…under my belt, I had a lot of catching up to do and had to learn on my own time." On the other hand, Crowson undoubtedly learned fast; he felt that by the end of the summer he had become "just as competent as the upper-level students in regard to the project and how to conduct proper and thoughtful research."
As with many students, Crowson found his position by knowing the right people: his seventh-grade teacher was friends with the head of the Ottawa Heart Institute and put Crowson in contact. When asked for advice to future applicants, his emphasis was clear: "poll all your friends, friends' parents, your immediate and extended family for any contacts they may have in the field of your interest…Networking is key!"
On campus, Crowson is a soccer coach in Cornhill with the HAVOC A.Y.S.O. program and will edit the Science and Technology section of The Spectator. He will also be a RA for Bundy East. He is a goalie for the Varsity Men's Hockey team and a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity. He hopes to enter a clinical research program and work in oncology after graduating from Hamilton.
-- Lisbeth Redfield