Caitlyn Moustouka, B.S./Ph.D. Student
I'm a 4th year Biochemistry/Biophysics PhD student (7th year in the Accelerated BS/PhD Program) working in the Makhatadze lab. My work focuses on understanding and functionalizing complex protein-protein interactions. I've been working on developing a fluorescent protein-based sensor for amyloid fibrils that exploits the inherent affinity of fluorescent proteins for the amyloid structure. This tool is being developed not only to detect and quantify fibrils, but also to help us understand the mechanism of the fluorescent protein-fibril interaction.
The Accelerated BS/PhD Program has allowed me to explore different areas of high-level scientific research early on in my undergraduate education, providing me with the resources to evaluate my interests and goals before committing to graduate school. It's very important to keep an open mind when deciding what areas of science to work in and where you'd like to do your graduate studies. Make sure to talk to your peers, professors, and current graduate students to get their insights, as well!
Christian Franquiz, B.D./Ph.D Student
During my time in the Colón Lab as part of the Accelerated BS/PhD Program, I have focused my research on the identification of kinetically stable proteins (KSPs) within model systems like tree nuts, sesame seed, and fruit seeds. By identifying these proteins and semi-quantifying their kinetic stabilty (KS), I aim to correlate the identified KS with allergy to explore the relationship between kinetic stability and allergy.
I've had the opportunity to present my research at various RPI internal conferences as well as external conferences, including American Chemistry Society and Protein Society. I would tell incoming students to make good use of your rotations to explore different aspects of your field-even if it's research you may initially enjoy or find intimidating.
Ahlyia Leclerc, B.S./Ph.D. Student
My name is Ahlyia Leclerc and I plan on entering the field of astrobiology! Particularly, I am interested in pursuing research on the origins of life at hydrothermal vents and extending that by looking for life beyond our planet.
I started research in the spring of my sophomore year. I have conducted research on black carbon cycling in salt marsh intertidal systems where prescribed burns have taken place. I used my findings from that to start another project looking at whether or not black carbon can be produced at hydrothermal vents and what implications there could be for the origins of life at those systems.
My advice for anyone interested or already in the program is to get to know your professors and don't be afraid to reach out to them. They have your best interest in mind, so forming bonds with them makes this experience even more rewarding. Additionally, some labs may not always be available for research rotations, so putting yourself out there can help put you on their radar or help point you to another lab that is a good fit for you. Be adventurous and open minded in your interests, and also be willing to take chances on yourself. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish by simply giving yourself a chance!
Carleton Coffin, B.S./Ph.D Student
I’m a 4th year Biochemistry/Biophysics PhD student (7th year in the accelerated BS/PhD program) working in the Royer lab. My work focuses on understanding and quantifying the heat shock response to hydrostatic pressure in wild type and pressure tolerant E. coli. I use two photon excitation scanning number and brightness fluorescence microscopy with GFP promoter fusions for key heat shock genes to determine the absolute fluorescence intensity at single cell resolution. The data for all the cells can then be combined to examine the distribution of the response across populations of cells for each promoter fusion. This work will elucidate how pressure resistance occurs in bacteria to provide a foundation to combat the rise in pressure resistant pathogenic bacteria that threaten pressure sterilization in the food industry. This work will also provide a better understanding of how organisms adapt to survive in the deep sea, where the pressure is 100 times higher than at sea level.
The accelerated BS/PhD project has had a very positive impact on my career. I knew going into my undergraduate education that I wanted to go into research and obtain a PhD, so this program was a deciding factor in attending RPI. It also allowed me to work in multiple diverse laboratory environments, allowing me to rapidly expand my knowledge base and my lab skills. When I transitioned to graduate school, I felt fully prepared, and I had already decided on a lab to perform my thesis work in, making the first year experience much smoother.
Getting accepted into this program opens up a wide variety of options for undergraduates to get involved in research. Being accepted into this program shows PIs and the graduate students that you are committed to going into research and that you are one of the top people in your class. Being a member of this program also dramatically increases the chances of getting accepted to work in a lab. Think carefully on which labs you want to do your three rotations in. I personally recommend rotating in three very different labs. It will give you best chances of determining which kinds of research, techniques, and lab environments you like the best.