My name is Christy Atkinson; I am currently a senior working toward a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. For the first fifteen years after high school graduation I journeyed through several occupations including the United Sates Marine Corp, a small café owner, a nursing assistant and a habilitation specialist. As a habilitation specialist I was working with dually diagnosed, mentally compromised, teenagers in a federal hospital to gain life skills to live and work outside of an institution. I am a veteran of the Gulf War of 1990, a single parent, and a non-traditional student attending New England College in Henniker, a small college originally began to educate returning WW11 veterans.
I began my New England College career as a Secondary Education major with a concentration in Biology; I completed the degree in December of 2011. With each new science course and experience while working toward the biology and education degree, I realized that my interests changed slightly and grew in the area of microbiology and scientific research. I decided that what I really wanted to do was to go to graduate school for microbiology. Therefore I chose to continue at NEC one more year to gain a second bachelor’s degree in biology, taking the last few courses I needed for graduate school, and gaining research experience as well. In order to gain this research experience, I chose a senior thesis science project in microbiology with Lori Bergeron (Assistant Professor of Biology). In January 2011 I began working as an INBRE scholar to continue the research project I had started in September. This research opportunity has allowed me to apply many techniques that I have learned in my courses as an undergrad student, including some new lab techniques I have not used before, such as using bioinformatics, an online genome research tool. So far, I have identified a set of genes that might be involved in the synthesis of iron chelating molecules or siderophores in Actinomyces naeslundii (a bacterium that forms biofilms in the mouth). Now that I have isolated these genes, I am working on generating mutants of siderophore biosynthesis. These mutants will be examined for growth and virulence defects. I have been able to develop research questions, collect data and present some of the research at the Microbiology and Molecular Pathogenesis Program hosted by Dartmouth College in February 2011. This opportunity allowed me to interact with graduate students and post docs and discuss graduate program with many current graduate students also presenting their research.
Through the INBRE program I am conducting innovative research that has helped me to develop my own scientific questions and then learn how to search through literature and develop lab techniques to attempt to answer those questions. This summer I plan to continue the project I have started and hopefully publish these research findings. This INBRE experience is preparing me for graduate school in the biomedical science.
For more information about the New Hampshire Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE), please visit their website at http://nhinbre.org.