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Student Spotlights

Mark: Biochemistry

Mark Gold, a biochemistry major, was research assistant in Professor Christensens lab on BYU campus.

What did you do for the internship?

I started doing research in the Christensen lab at BYU in May of 2018. I was initially hired to the lab to analyze a random peptide array to find a binding motif of capillary morphogenesis protein 2(CMG2). Since then, I have learned and utilized peptide synthesis, western blot, SDS-PAGE with Coomassie staining and silver staining, mass spectrometry, DNA gels, HPLC, mini-prep, cell transformation, DNA cut and paste cloning, Q5 DNA mutagenesis, colony PCR, and others to the advancement of our research. I learned many of these skills before taking courses on biochemical methods to help keep the research moving forward. When I took the courses that went over these methods, I improved my techniques and increased productivity.

From these many things that I have learned, I have been in charge taking arguments from lab meeting and making sure that our work is progressing towards publication. I have made several figures that will be used in future publications as well as developed several tools that can be used in the lab for future researchers.

What was the most useful thing you learned from your internship?

I have always been fascinated with those who give their life to serve others. I worked as an first responder EMT for 2 years in provo. I also worked as a CNA for 2 years in Orem working with individuals with special needs. I loved that going to work was my 1000+ daily good deeds. While in my internship, I realized that the research that I am doing can affect the lives of millions down the road. This is when I started to focus more on research. I love that science can be used to improve the quality of life of millions and I would say that this is the most impactful thing that I have learned during my internship.

What professional skills did you develop in your internship?

For me, the course work and my internship went hand in hand. One didn't make sense without the other. That is why my freshman year was not as impactful as it could have been. Once I started doing research, I really began to understand why I was doing things and why certain courses were important. "There are many things that I have already done durring my internship because of new skills. To quickly analyze large data sets, like a random peptide array, I have coded using MATLAB’s bioinformatics toolbox. One of the first programs I wrote selected the highest binding sequences of the random peptide array, filtered them for good kD values, and searched for sequence homology in extracellular matrix protein sequences. This project was completed quickly and contained other functions which saved time. One such function of the program plotted identified sequences on known 3D protein structures. Later, I took the project a step further and used the peptide sequences with poor kDs for filtering out false positives for many of the peptide arrays that we have had done in the lab.

I then used solid-phase peptide synthesis, HPLC, and mass spectrometry to synthesize, purify, and confirm the peptides that were identified. These peptides were used in the lab for Bio-layer interferometry, cellular migration and proliferation assays, and other phenotypic tests.

To further the research, I modified a lentiviral plasmid through mutagenesis and cut-and-paste cloning. This plasmid contained DNA from CMG2 and mRuby-2. In-between the two protein DNA segments was a unique cut site that allowed for changing of the protein or the fluorophore. This allowed for easy development of lentiviral vectors that would express fusion proteins.

All of these things are essential experiments that all biochemist should be able to do. I believe that they will give me a large advantage in the work field.

Anything else you'd like to say?

I started interning as a research assistant about a year ago. The first thing I noticed as I began to do research was that what was being taught in the classroom actually was applicable to real life things. I started wishing that I had paid more attention my freshman year. Additionally, at the time that I started research, I wanted to become a doctor. Over the last year, I have realized that every reason I wanted to become a doctor can be fulfilled as a researcher. I have really grown to love research. My internship helped me connect with the teachers which made it easy to get letters of recommendations. I also have learned so many great skills that have set me up for graduate school.

Mark Gold