I’m incredibly grateful to the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at Michigan State University for allowing me to have such an amazing opportunity this summer. Chrislyn, the program’s coordinator, did an amazing job at matching me to a project that suited my interest perfectly. I love all things Microbiology and have a particular fondness for working with unusual microbes; extremophiles or those with unique metabolisms. This summer I wanted to move away from pure Microbiology research and learn how to engineer such organisms to produce useful molecules. My graduate student mentor, Emily Lanier, is co-advised by Bjoern Hamberger, whose lab focuses on diterpenes, and Michaela TerAvest, whose lab works with Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, was doing this kind of work.
Emily’s project is to engineer S. oneidensis to produce diterpenes. My contribution to her project was to integrate a gene necessary for diterpene production into the genome of S. oneidensis. Even though I wasn’t able to complete my project over the course of ten weeks, I feel like I developed as scientist tremendously. Many of the techniques needed for my project I already had experience with in previous labs, so what made this experience so great was the fact that Emily let me do a lot of the experimental design. We would meet with Bjoern or Michaela to discuss ideas, get a few papers, but then it was up to me to read through the literature and extract from it useful experiments that could feasibly be executed in the lab. I was also responsible for really crucial parts of the project, like designing the gene we wanted to insert into Shewanella’s genome! It made me a nervous at first to be entrusted with so much, but after adjusting, I found I enjoyed the responsibility. It felt like a great primer to being a graduate student. Emily and everyone else in the lab were also always there to help me when I needed!
Outside of the lab, I had an amazing time with the other students in the program. It look us a while to become good friends, but by the end of the summer, I was so sad to say goodbye to everyone. I had a blast seeing all the Michigan had to offer. We took trips to Detroit, Holland, and White Hall. I’ll always look back fondly on the summer I spent here!