This spring during Purdue’s first virtual Undergraduate Research Conference, Rachel Stucky 21’ presented her project “Importance of Controlling Genome Organization in Regenerative Medicine,” and placed 1st for the College of Science oral presentations. Her research mentors on this project were Drs. Sophie Lelievre and Yunfeng Bai. A recent graduate, Christopher Schorr, also contributed to the project.
Rachel started on this project in fall 2019 and it focused on how to use induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and what issues they present. Rachel’s project focused on iPSCs genetic and epigenetic instability. The difficulty lies in giving them an appropriate environment to thrive in and, due to this, iPSCs have a history of changes that lead to the formation of tumors. These cells have incredible potential in the field of regenerative medicine like spinal cord repairs, but there are still some dangers of putting them into humans such as tumors. “We want to understand the root cause of why iPSCs behave the way they do so these issues can be addressed, and these cells can be used to their potential.” Due to COVID-19, Rachel’s research in the lab was disrupted. However, they are currently focusing on background research and other researchers’ findings so they can continue the project in the fall.
“This year’s Purdue Undergraduate Research Conference was like no other,” said Rachel. At first, she was relieved that the conference was online because it meant that she would not have to talk in front of a crowd of people. She said she had more time to work on her presentation this year than she would have if the conference had continued like normal. “Recording the presentation meant I had infinite do-overs, and I re-recorded many, many times over a week.”
Rachel first got involved in undergraduate research when she decided she wanted to attend veterinary school since research is a large portion of the application. “I also thought it would be fun to learn about science outside of the classroom,” Rachel said. “My advice to students starting in research would be to find a project or a laboratory that you’re truly interested in and make sure that you aren’t just an extra set of hands.” Rachel also added that to become a useful part of your research team, it is important to use your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. “The more you put into research, the more you will get out of it.”