Sea Urchins! by Joseph Ferme

As most of you know, research is an integral part of Boston University. One of the main reasons I chose BU is because it is a teaching and research institution. Ever since high school science classes, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue, and BU provided me a fantastic opportunity to do so. I first started seeking these opportunities at the beginning of my junior year, perusing the UROP website and reaching out to professors. But luckily for me, the opportunity came directly to me. Taking a class called developmental biology (BI410) ended up being one of the best choices I made here at BU, because it led to my professor, Cyndi Bradham, asking me to do research in her lab. She asked me. This was not at all what I expected. I envisioned countless emails to professors, painstakingly awaiting replies and sending follow-up, but instead it was a professor reaching out to me.

Of course I accepted this amazing opportunity, and for the past year and a half or so I have been participating in undergraduate research for Cyndi in her lab. We do developmental biology work and our medium is sea urchins. Of course not many people know this, but within the developmental biology world, there is a very vibrant and active sea urchin community, and Cyndi is a big part of it. Not only do I get to participate in some amazing research, but I get to do so under someone who is such an integral part of the field. I’ve learned from her both in and out of the classroom. When we read papers for class or lab meetings about sea urchin development, if Cyndi hadn’t written it, there was a good chance she was cited.

I specifically am studying skeletal patterning in sea urchins, using a variety of techniques and through various projects and experiments. I’ve studied the locations of certain genes at certain times of development through fluorescent in situ hybridization (by making that gene light up under fluorescent light) and then analyzed how that changes due to certain treatments, I’ve studied how a certain cell type progresses by staining those cells and then viewing them under fluorescence, and I am also currently trying to clone a gene to analyze it’s role in development.

I spend a lot of time in the lab. It’s exactly what I wanted to coming BU as a biochemistry and molecular biology major, and it has helped me tremendously in a so many ways. Applying so many of the techniques I have learned about in the classroom puts them into perspective and I am able to understand lecture material a bit more. I have mastered various lab techniques that can help me in future endeavors. Most of all though, I have learned so much by participating in this research, both on the specific subject but also how research is conducted and how a lab is run and thanks to that, I feel prepared to move on to higher levels of research and education.

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