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SURFing Through Summer
SURFing Through Summer
Amy Northrop '15: "SURF has given me a taste of what it's like to be a research biologist."
This summer, Randolph-Macon College student
Amy Northrop ’15
is spending most of her time in a lab. And that’s just fine with her.
major from Henrico, Virginia, is participating in the Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (
) program. SURF offers students the opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Northrop’s research is titled “Evaluation of a Sperm G-Protein-Coupled Receptor (GPR56) in C. porcellus Spermatogenic Cells.”
“I am attempting to characterize the development of a surface protein, GPR56, in mammalian sperm using fertile male guinea pigs,” she explains. “Prior experiments have shown the presence of GPR56 in guinea pig sperm, but its role in fertilization, if any, is still unknown. The absence of GPR56 in mammalian sperm, if shown to play a crucial role in fertilization, could explain one of the reasons for infertility.” Northrop is working under the guidance of Biology Professor James Foster.
“Professor Foster presented this research idea to me, and I found it extremely interesting,” she says. “There are numerous proteins in sperm, and I was really hopeful that exploring this particular protein would lead to significant findings.” A typical day of research includes experiments using common biomedical research techniques such as Gel Electrophoresis, Western Analysis, and Immunofluorescence Microscopy. Northrop then records and analyzes the results with Foster.
“Professor Foster’s mentorship is very important,” says Northrop. “He answers my questions, teaches me research terms and procedures, and helps me develop strong problem-solving skills. He has also opened my eyes to future possibilities such as graduate school, doctoral programs and research careers. SURF has given me a taste of what it’s like to be a research biologist. As a sophomore, I have taken just two semesters of biology, but I feel far more prepared for the more difficult courses that lie ahead after participating in this program.”
“Amy has learned a lot in a short time and has done a fantastic job, especially considering that she started her research project only a few weeks after finishing her freshman year,” says Foster. “As with any research project, things started slowly but her hard work and persistence paid off, and her experiments produced interesting results. It’s very exciting to see students react when they see and understand the meaning of a dark band on a film or a bright fluorescent area on a cell. Amy now understands the hard work it takes to do research but she has also experienced the excitement of discovery and being the first to uncover interesting new information. The next step is to present her work at a scientific conference.”
Northrop is an active member of
Kappa Alpha Theta
. She is also the recipient of the William F. Goggin and Robert Allen Thomas
, which was established through a bequest of William F. Goggin and Robert Allen Thomas ’48 to support a qualified and financially deserving student with a major in the humanities or sciences.
For Northrop, SURF is the beginning of a lifetime of discovery.
“After I graduate from R-MC, I plan to earn my Ph.D. and begin a research career in the field of biology,” she says.
was introduced in 1995 as an endowment to support scholarly undergraduate research by students in all disciplines. Students conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The initial gift for the program was made by Benjamin Schapiro ’64 and his wife Peggy.
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