Chelsea Connolly, a BDWH student, stands next to a Western blot she is using to detect target proteins.

Chelsea Connolly, a BDWH student, stands next to a Western blot she is using to detect target proteins.

Chelsea Connolly, an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, is spending her summer at the MBL as part of the Biological Discovery in Woods Hole (BDWH) program. She is working in the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center, with Chief Academic and Scientific Officer Joshua Hamilton acting as her mentor.

“I’ve gotten to meet lots of people with similar interests here,” Connolly says. “I’m happy to have found this opportunity.”

Connolly is contributing to a study investigating the effects of low doses of arsenic in human cells. Specifically, she is looking at how arsenic affects receptors of hormone molecules that influence DNA transcription in embryonic kidney cells. DNA transcription is the first step to protein synthesis, so altering its course can significantly affect a cell. Connolly says that preliminary data indicates current standards for acceptable levels of arsenic in drinking water may be too relaxed.

“The lab is well funded and has good equipment, so we can explore multiple avenues,” Connolly says. “We can look at proteins, mRNA, and other data to tie a lot together.”

Connolly has been involved in research at Valdosta State University, where she studied the molecular biology of plants and algae. This is the first time she’s had the opportunity to work with human cells.

Paul Malchow, a faculty member at University of Illinois, Chicago, and Allen Mensinger of University of Minnesota, Duluth, co-founded BDWH, which provides undergraduates with research experiences they may not have access to at their own institutions.

“Paul and Al are really helpful, especially when it comes to giving advice about grad school and careers. I’m lucky to be here,” Connolly says.

More information about the BDWH program can be found here: http://www.mbl.edu/education/courses/other_programs/reu.html

Chelsea Connolly, a BDWH student, uses human embryonic kidney cells in her research project.

Connolly uses human embryonic kidney cells in her research project.

Connolly examines human embryonic kidney cells under a microscope.

Connolly examines human embryonic kidney cells under a microscope.