With her sights set on a career as a military physician, Christine works at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Massachusetts.
In November 2012, she learned she is one step closer to achieving her dream; she has been accepted to her top choice school, the New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.
As part of Washington College’s summer undergraduate research program, Christine Lynch ’11 worked under the supervision of associate professor of biology Mindy Reynolds to investigate the effect of environmental toxins—specifically cobalt and nickel—on human DNA.
Upon graduating, she went to work in a research lab focused on serving the military population.
Christine’s team at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is looking for ways to accelerate muscle growth and regeneration post-injury.
“Research is such a learning process,” she says. “It’s different from learning a technique in class where maybe you follow a protocol and look for a result. In research, you have to understand why am I doing what I’m doing and what does it mean? It’s critical thinking,” says Lynch, who is set on becoming a military physician. “I think my time in the lab definitely helped me not just get where I am today, but I think it will open opportunities for where I’ll be in the future.”
Hodson Fellow Investigates Environmental Toxins
At the prospect of doing hands-on science research, Christine Lynch ‘11 selected Washington College as her top-choice school. But when the incoming freshman accepted the Hodson Science Fellowship, she had little idea that, by the end of her sophomore year, she would be investigating the effect of environmental toxins on human DNA and looking at tumor suppressor genes.
Over the course of a 10-week summer research program in Professor Mindy Reynolds’ lab, the biology major learned how to use the instrumentation and methodology required to extract DNA from human lung cells, introduce heavy metals to the samples, select cells to test for proteins, and analyze toxicity levels.
The young scientist is looking at occupational levels of environmental toxins—specifically cobalt and nickel—associated with lung cancer and other lung disease. The heavy metals are typically found in batteries that, when discarded, can leech out into groundwater supplies.
“We are looking specifically at the mechanism by which co-exposure to these heavy metals cause lung cancer,” explains Dr. Reynolds, who collaborated on a similar project with Khadiza Chowdhery ‘10, a biochemistry major from Bangladesh. Khadiza is looking for gene mutations caused by exposure to nickel and cadmium.
“This is my first real research experience, and Dr. Reynolds has been very patient in explaining everything,” says Christine. “As a premed student, I’m really interested in the work we’re doing and I’m now considering oncology as a possible career track.”
Christine and Khadiza traveled with Professor Reynolds to Salt Lake City in March to give poster presentations of their investigations at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology.
“I hope to come back to Professor Reynolds’ lab next summer,” says Christine. “This has been a really cool experience, and there are lots of different avenues we can explore from here.”
Q & A
Hometown and high school? Lincoln University, PA, Avon Grove High School