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Scientia[Lat.: Knowledge


]


Embodying the dictionary definition, Skidmore science labs are uncovering new facts and hidden truths


BY SUSAN ROSENBERG


L


AST SUMMER’S BATCH of student-


faculty research included a bumper crop of high-tech “hard-science” lab projects, many of them continuing during this academic year. The work isn’t easy or eye- catching, but it’s fascinating—and important for advances in medicine and other fields. Here are three glimpses into the mental and manual work of modern bench science.


CUSTOM-DESIGNING PROTEIN FACTORIES Sean Healton ’12, Matt Walsh ’12, and Madeline Frank ’13 are working with their faculty partner, biochemist Kelly Shep- pard, on transfer RNA and its aminotransferase enzymes, cru- cial cell machinery for creating proteins correctly. For four


weeks they’re joined by local high school student Schuyler Lockwood, in a founda- tion-funded program called “Growing the Science Pipeline.” It’s mid-July, and their lab is crowded with incubators and other equip- ment, so everybody wears shorts and T-shirts under their lab coats. Along with the foundation and donor grants that fund most summer research teams, they’re also using Sheppard’s award from the Research Corpo- ration for Science Advancement. Their goal is to re-engineer tRNA.


Quick primer: transfer RNA, essentially a single-stranded version of the double-coiled DNA, helps cells to translate DNA’s genetic instructions for creating proteins—which cells do all day, every day, in order to stay alive. To start the


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