Beatrix Bradford, Julia Laibach, Alexandra Northrup and Julia Rigothi are among the students that have been working alongside Dr. Paula Checchi in her genetics lab to enhance their research, with the goal of being published. On March 1, 2018 the work was published under the prestigious and well known journal, Genetics.
“My mom cried when I told her. Never would have thought I could look at my undergrad years and predict to be published,” Alexandra said.
Though each student was published together under the same piece, each completed a particular research assignment with different experiments. Beatrix Bradford is a junior from Farmington, Conn. studying environmental science and biology. Her specific research pertained to the best exposure method for pesticide. She started testing different strains and right now is testing another strain through three exposure methods for pesticide. They aimed to look at fertility to see if there was an increase or decrease in reproduction as a result of the pesticides used.
Beatrix explained her long journey through receiving unexpected lab results—becoming accustomed to trial and error in attempt to find what was absent in the experiment in order to receive specific results. “Though we were not getting the results we wanted for a while, I had to just keep trying and collecting data,” Beatrix said.
Beatrix is the only member of her family that is interested in science and relates much of her interest to the teachers she had in high school. She said, “I had teachers that loved what they were doing and wanted to share what they were doing with us. They would encourage us.” Throughout the research, Beatrix has found great interest in specifically determining what can cause the effects received. She also is eager to see what the research can bring in the bigger picture, and what is to come with the research—as she will continue working on this research in her final year at Marist.
Julia Laibach is a bio medicine major from Wantagh, New York and will be graduating in 2018, one year early. This semester, Julia has been researching and working on a project using mice cells to see if genes and disease related to gene damage, and if proteins can come together. Julia also links her interest in science to the honors science program she was in throughout high school. “I had crazy teachers that I loved,” Julia said. “Science was big at my high school, it was a very good program and everyone in it was very excited about science—so I got excited about it myself.”
The lab was enjoyable to Julia because of the overall low pressure environment—as she explained the general acceptance and constructive criticism of mistakes. She recalled the lab environment to have been heavily centered around learning and enhancing knowledge and ability. “We will be much more knowledgeable when we get into the real world.”
“It was exciting to see how it is going to evolve,” Julia siad. “It can seem small but it can help other people’s research and experiments.” Alexandra Northrup is a sophomore studying biomedical science and spanish, from Rochester, New York. Her research was to work on creating double mutants to evaluate the relationship between two mutants that were isolated and their relationship. Alexandra was able to evaluate viability of offspring in the germline.
Alexandra’s interest in the science field began early in her childhood. Born two months premature alongside her twin sister, she spent the first two months of her life in the NICU. Later in her life, Alexandra’s parents would tell her about the doctors that she spent time with in her early childhood, and as a result, she gained an interest in wanting to help others through medicine.
Alexandra’s work in Dr. Checchi’s lab was encouraged by her parents, who held faith in her ability to take on other challenges in her major field of study. “I am very motivated by peers, the desire to succeed. I love being surrounded by people that have a drive similar to mine—everyone wants you to do better.”
Julia Rigothi graduated in 2017 with a degree in biomedical science and mathematics. From Poughkeepsie, New York, Julia was a member of the honors program and was a four year varsity athlete for the Marist Women's’ Division I Crew team. Julia Rigothi was able to spend three years working with Dr. Checchi in the lab. “She always takes the time to thoroughly explain the details of the project that each student would be working on and how it contributed to her research.”
Following graduation, Julia Rigothi decided not to continue a career in research. Though she will continue her education towards becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy, she emphasizes the valuability of the experiences she has gained through the lab that other doctors in her field may not have.
“I learned an important aspect of what makes research projects become successful—many pieces coming together to make a whole,” she said. “I had to practice patience as experiments failed and had to be repeated. I realized the value of teamwork in a lab environment, and I learned the importance of speaking up and inquiring about anything that perplexed me.”
Prior to coming into the lab, Dr. Checchi asked each of the students what their interests were. She would then cater the experiments and research assignments towards their interests. “She takes into consideration their interests as well as career aspirations when devising individual students’ research projects,” Julia Rigothi said. “She assigns projects to students to challenge them.”
Each student agreed on the positive atmosphere Dr. Checchi created—fostering an environment for each student to try their best to enhance their abilities and grow. Each mistake they made brought an opportunity to learn.
Julia Rigothi describes the opportunity as something that will be very beneficial to them once they are in the real world. “Dr. Checchi’s lab was a place to learn, run experiments, be challenged, make friends, have fun and realize the importance of contributing to research.”