First Steps Toward a Career in Research
As a neuroscience major at Hamilton, Erin Donahue ’18 has stuck mostly to a pre-health curriculum. Donahue has been able to experience several aspects of health study, including clinical research and personal medicine, neither of which piqued her particular interests. “Working toward a more tangible goal and pursuing results that could someday improve the livelihoods of a significant number of people has redirected my medical exploration,” she said.
This summer, Donahue is participating in the Summer Research Immersion (SRI) program at Binghamton University, where she is gaining exposure to the research field. By participating in the program, Donahue will become certified on many lab techniques, allowing her to work on several research projects with the potential for publication and future drug company collaboration.
Donahue, and the seven other students in the program, spend most of their time in the lab, utilizing a variety of cellular level research techniques. This summer, the group is working on two projects: one is exploring neurotransmitter transporters and trying to understand the role of neurotransmitters in disease, and the other is studying amyloid-beta peptides, which are the underlying cause for Alzheimer’s disease.
Hometown: Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
High School: Palos Verdes High School
The team has been designing detection assays to investigate neurotransmitter uptake and efflux. The project spans from pipetting and working with agar plates and bacteria culture, to advanced mammalian cell work, and reacting peptides.
On all lab days, Donahue and the other students spend about 4-6 hours in lab. Other days the group works in a classroom, either learning more about the project, discussing ideas or working on projects and papers. As soon as the team has reviewed all techniques necessary to conduct the project, the group divides into its individual units to work independently. In the end, all data collected will be used collaboratively.
By the end of the summer, Donahue hopes to have her name on a published article, or on a pending-publication article. However, even if the data does not reveal anything publication-worthy, Donahue will not leave Binghamton empty handed.
Over the course of the 10-week program, Donahue has been exposed to several new lab techniques, learned how to operate a plethora of new equipment and experienced working collaboratively with a research team on a long-term project. “I’ve always known I was interested in pursuing graduate degrees and a career in neuroscience, but working in a lab on a real project has illustrated that that’s what I someday want to do with my life,” she said.