Western Blots & Porcupine: My Undergraduate Research Experience

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My name is Catherine and I was born and raised here in the capital. I am a second-year Health Science student with a concentration in Biomedical Science. In my first year, I realized that my passion and appreciation towards the physiological and biochemical aspects of medicine had immensely grown. I was eager to get involved in research to further continue my newly found passion. I decided to register for the lab tour week run by the SSSC and had the chance to visit various labs on campus. I met Dr. Willmore at one of my first lab tours and was really interested in the many clinical applications, such as cancer, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, that his work involved.  As an aspiring physician, I wanted to explore current health issues which are prevalent in society today. I decided to contact Dr. Willmore to discuss becoming a member of the Willmore lab. With a lot of hard work in first year I was eligible to apply for the Dean’s Summer Research Internship. Currently, I am continuing my work through the I-CUREUS Internship in Dr. Willmore’s lab. In the lab, I work alongside a doctoral student, who is not only a great friend but a great mentor, examining the role of stressors on four proteins; porcupine, wntless, wnt5a and wnt3a, and their function in human colorectal carcinoma cells.

I have learned so many new techniques and they even help me currently in my second-year labs.  Some of the skills that I have learned while in Dr. Willmore’s lab are cell culture, transfection, Western blotting (this is really cool!), and protein determination. I can’t believe that I was able to learn all of this in my first year! One of the most common things that I do in the lab is transfection. This involves growing cells on a plate, injecting the plasmid of our protein into the cells and allowing the plasmid to incorporate itself into the cells.

Currently I am working on trials of the wnt5a protein. A typical trial goes something like this: plate cells to grow, then transfect our wnt5a plasmid into the cells, treat the cells with various treatments, harvest the cells from the plates, use an assay to see how much protein we have, then do a Western to see if we have the correct protein that we are looking for. The best part is when we get to take a picture of the proteins that were transferred onto the membrane.

Western Blot

I am still fascinated that it is possible to do experiments like this. I really encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about a topic to get involved in research! 

- Catherine K., SSSC Mentor

Catherine K

Welcome to the Faculty of Science

This is my favourite time of the year. Classes started last Wednesday and campus is active and buzzing again. First-year students are excited to begin their lives at university, and interacting with them reminds me of the limitless potential we have here at Carleton. The leaves are just starting to show glimpses of red and yellow, and I can look out the window of my office and see the new Health Sciences building nearing completion. Carleton is transforming in front of my eyes and everyone here can feel the underlying pulse of change.

It really is a spectacular time to be in the Faculty of Science.

As the Science Student Success Officer at Carleton University, I am in the blessed position of interacting daily with some of the most amazing students on this campus. Our volunteers in the Science Student Success Centre are truly passionate, giving, inspirational individuals. They mentor fellow students one-on-one, run workshops, organize social events for the Faculty of Science, and help plan and execute large networking events to help undergraduate students network with professionals and alumni. They dedicate their time and energy to improving services and, in the process, they make a huge impact on the lives of other Faculty of Science students. It is truly amazing to watch.

What we have in the Faculty of Science at Carleton is truly special. Many undergraduate students complete research projects, work in research labs, and get to participate in groundbreaking projects. Some travel across Canada and to countries around the world to work and volunteer. Many SSSC mentors have been involved in experiential learning and benefited from the hands-on learning opportunities Carleton provides to undergraduate students.

This blog is an opportunity for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Science to share their stories and give you a glimpse into the possibilities available to students who want to make the most of their Carleton experience.

I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I do!

Mandi Crespo
Science Student Success Officer
Faculty of Science
Carleton University

Yellow leaves and Dunton TowerStudents in the Quad at Carleton
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