MDI Biological Laboratory

Summer of Fun and Futures: Life in the Haller Lab

  • July 17, 2021

This summer, MDI Biological Laboratory is hosting six students from Colby University as part of our summer fellowships program, which has 29 total participants this year.

Keagan Dunbar and Alyssa Kent are rising seniors, spending their summer in the Haller Lab. Although only half-way through their time on campus, both already say they know it’s an experience of a lifetime. “I’m really happy here,” smiles Keagan, “I’ve learned so much more about the breadth of biomedical sciences and I know my time here will help guide me in the decision of whether I pursue medical school or a career in research.”

Alyssa found out about MDIBL’s undergraduate summer opportunities through Handshake, an online student job recruitment platform and immediately felt an affinity to the type of research MDIBL does. The institution’s fabulous location definite adds appeal. When asked what their favorite “non-lab” thing about being on MDI is and they laugh as they answer at the same time: hiking, swimming, exploring all the island has to offer.

While both part of the Haller lab group this summer, Keagan is working on stem cell research under the guidance of mentor Anna Schultalbers, who is at MDIBL on a one-year placement from Hannover Medical School. Alyssa is working alongside Svjetlana Lovric, M.D., a visiting summer scientist (also from Hannover Medical School), with the zebrafish. “I’ve not worked with animal models before, so I’ve learned a lot about husbandry and the procedures,” says Alyssa. “I’ve been really impressed seeing how the other research groups are utilizing the same model.”

With four undergraduate and two high school students added to the Haller Lab group this summer, you’d think that it might be chaotic. “It’s definitely busy,” says Keagan as Alyssa nods in agreement. “But everyone is so helpful and genuinely committed to helping us learn. This program is so educationally based – it’s allowed me a lot of personal development that I don’t think I would have experienced anywhere else.” Alyssa highlights research assistant Pat Schroder’s patience and dedication to teaching lab protocols, lab manager Lynne Staggs’ depth of knowledge, and both young women agree that having Dr. Haller as a PI during this experience has been nothing short of amazing.

MDIBL prides itself on providing not only an interesting and fun experience for the length of an island summer, but one that has true value for students and their learning. Keagan and Alyssa are looking ahead to their senior year and what may lay beyond. Keagan aims to spend some time in a lab while she decides her career path. Alyssa plans also to work as a researcher while she studies for the MCAT exam for medical school. One thing they both know – that their time as summer fellows at MDIBL has given them skills and networks they can both take forward into their bright futures.

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