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Pictured above top to bottom: Rebecca Hudon, Taylor Briese

The Summer Scholars program is one of the many ways students can become involved in research on campus. Each year, students apply for a summer scholarship to work with a faculty advisor to complete their own research project. Research projects come from a variety of topics and disciplines from social sciences to fine arts. This year, thirteen students were chosen as 2016 Summer Scholars. Rebecca Hudon and Taylor Briese are two of the students selected.

Rebecca is a rising senior majoring in biology. Her research project is titled “Generating a star (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein) mutant zebrafish to study human steroid deficiencies”. She will be working with her faculty advisor Dr. Chris Lassiter to use the genome-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to generate a mutant zebrafish line to study human steroid deficiencies.

“I started on this project for a few different reasons. The first reason I picked this project is because it focuses heavily on genetics, which is the field of study I intend on pursuing after I graduate from Roanoke. The second reason is that this project gives me the opportunity to use CRISPR/Cas9, which is a relatively new technique in the field of biology research. Lastly, I liked that the project relates my lab work to the medical field and has potential real world applications”.

Rebecca applied to be a Summer Scholar because of the positive things she heard from past Summer Scholars. Her advisor also encouraged her to apply.

“The biggest challenge that I face with this project is troubleshooting. When you work with a technique that is still relatively new in the sciences, there are so many things that could potentially go wrong. I constantly have to rework steps in order to get my desired outcomes. This can be exhausting, but when it finally works, it is incredibly rewarding”.

Taylor is also a rising senior majoring in history and Spanish with a minor in education. Her project is titled “From Roanoke to East Lansing: Charlie Thornhill and Football’s “Underground Railroad”. The project focuses on Charlie Thornhill, a football player who graduated from Lucy Addison High School and attended Michigan State University. Charlie and the MSU football team faced off against Notre Dame in 1966, ending in a tie.

Taylor’s project focuses on asking questions such as: What was Charlie’s life like in Roanoke? What was segregated football during the early 1960’s like in Roanoke? How did the communities of Lucy Addison and the Roanoke Valley shape him into the person he was both on and off of the football field? Taylor will be working with Dr. Wallace Fuentes to complete her project.

“I started this project last fall during my historical methods class. I fell in love with the project and telling Thornhill’s story as I continued to work on it. Dr. Wallace Fuentes let us choose whatever topic we wanted to do for our methods paper. She wanted us to learn methods through a subject that we love, for me that was Michigan State University football. I started to research the 1965-1966 national championship football teams at Michigan State and I happen to find that there was a player from Roanoke on the team named Charlie Thornhill. Well, from there I threw myself into the project and by the end of the semester I was extremely proud of what I had accomplished but I didn’t want it to be over. I mean, how many times do you feel almost sad about turning in a paper not because of the lack of quality in it but because you have done your best and don’t want it to be over? Fortunately, at the beginning of last semester, Dr. Wallace Fuentes approached me about ways to continue my work on the project because we both thought that there was a great story to be told here. The connections to the Roanoke community and using this project to do some outreach in the local community really intrigued us. So we decided applying for Summer Scholars would allow us to hopefully take this project to the level we wanted to. So far, I am really happy about the progress we have made and I am excited for the future.”

Taylor’s biggest challenge will be dealing with race and segregation that surrounds the project.

“I am relying on a lot of community involvement which can make it a project hard if people are less interested than you are.”

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