"I spent my summer working in the O’Brien lab doing biochemical research on DNA ligases. DNA ligases are important enzymes that help maintain the integrity of the phosphodiester backbone in DNA. Although DNA ligases are critical for life they can sometimes be detrimental to our health. In certain cases, they can lead to cancer. My project is to discover new DNA ligase inhibitors and figure out how they work. We hope these inhibitors might one day be new drugs that can be used to treat certain cancers.

This summer, I learned a lot about DNA repair and how malfunctions in these pathways can lead to cancer. Without classes, I was able to dedicate more time to my project and really gain an understanding of what I was doing and how that relates to the bigger picture.  

The extra time in lab also allowed me to develop my ability to design an experiment. I’m now at the point where I can design an experiment and execute one by myself. I only occasionally need someone with whom I can discuss my ideas with.

Although I learned a lot from my successes this summer, the experience I learned the most from was the constant, complex and puzzling problem I faced. I spent most of my early summer tackling this difficult problem only to have it go away on its own months later. I can only postulate what was wrong and what fixed it. It was very upsetting to spend so much time on one issue but I’m happy I experienced it because I got to see the less glamorous and more tedious side of research. Despite all the grief this project gave me, I’m still excited to continue my work on it this upcoming year." 

-Kyle Schaubroeck, MRADS Alumni Scholarship Recipient