MDI Biological Laboratory
In the Media

Students take virtual genetics course through MDI Biological Laboratory

Eleven students and two faculty members spent a week over winter break immersed in an intensive virtual genetics course hosted by MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor.

For the class, students focused on computational skills, bioinformatics and limb generation in the axolotl, an amphibian that is sometimes called the “Mexican walking fish.” Students analyzed data sets of RNA sequences that are expressed in the tissues of axolotls during the process of regenerating a limb.

SMCC students for years have taken part in the January class in person, living and studying at the prestigious research lab. But the course had to be held remotely this year because of the pandemic.

Participating students were Anthony Abdallah (Nursing), Stephanie Abrams (Liberal Studies), Brian Determan (Marine Science), K.J. Gormley (Liberal Studies), Jessica Johnson (Liberal Studies), Abby Lucy (Marine Science), Erin McCue (Health Sciences), Sara Namwira (Liberal Studies), Nicole Savoy (Liberal Studies), Claire Stepchew (Marine Science) and Emerson Tucholski (Marine Science). They were joined by SMCC faculty members Daniel Moore and Lareen Smith; the course was led by Professors Joel Graber and James Godwin of MDIBL.

“If you have an interest in a research career, this course is invaluable,” Savoy said. “It helped me establish connections, put me on the path to my next step and taught me a set of knowledge I never would have explored otherwise. Don’t let anything hold you back from applying!”

McCue (in photo) said the course opened her eyes to a field of study she didn’t know anything about. “This was an experience conducive to teamwork and problem solving, and it truly reaffirmed my desire to work in a laboratory,” she said.

The course was supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institutes of Health. Over the years, the grant has also paid for SMCC students to do summer fellowships at places such as Bowdoin College, Bates College, University of New England and Maine Medical Center Research Institute.

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