This past week I had two really neat things happen. First, my Mentor-Mentee Project started to come together! What is Mentor-Mentee? It is a year-long collaborative project between a faculty member and a student where you research a problem and come up with a solution, perform an experiment, or create something. It is a great way to get experience working on a large task, and you even get a notation on your transcript!
My project is with Professor Jean Kraus in the Equestrian Department. We are creating a problem based learning module for horse health scenarios. There are a few classes at WWU where you learn common horse illnesses and problems, their symptoms, step to diagnosis, and their treatment. Our learning module, which will be online, walks through recognizing a problem, diagnosing it, and treating it. Just this week we actually started creating the website! We have been writing out our scenarios and thinking of ways to make it visual and effective since the start of the semester, and it is nice to see it start to come together. The overall goal is not only to provide a study tool for students, but also to learn the nuances of the scenarios and to understand what parts might be more challenging for students.
The second thing that happened last week was in Genetics. WWU Assistant Professor Kimberly Keller Ph.D did a lot of postgraduate research at the University of Missouri in Columbia. In her time there, she met Dr. Anjete Hesse, a biochemistry professor and plant researcher. This semester, Dr. Keller invited Dr. Hesse as a guest presenter in our genetics class. Not only did she teach us about her research, she actually let us perform some lab work for her!
The overall goal of Dr. Hesse's research is to determine what makes certain plants resistant to some bacteria, but not others. Eventually, this could help in making plants more resilient against bacterial infections, helping the agriculture industry immensely. The US Agriculture Industry generates over $100 billion every year. Millions of dollars are lost due to crop damage from different types of pathogens. This particular experiment involves finding two genetic mutations that negatively affect the ability of a plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) to fight of bacteria. As a Genetics lab class, we isolated the DNA from plants Dr. Hesse's lab has been growing. Because DNA is so tiny and there isn't an extraordinary amount found in each cell, we ran a PCR (Polymerase Chain Recation) which amplifies the DNA so we have enough to figure out what genes are in it. This week we will get to figure out if they have either or both of the two genetic mutations of interest!
It has been a great month so far, and I am really excited to see my Mentor-Mentee project take off and find out what genes are in the plants I isolated DNA from! Hopefully we find something interesting and helpful to Dr. Hesse's research!