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March 5, 2014

Daniel Mitchell: Lab, Lab, Research and More Lab

March 5, 2014

Daniel Mitchell is a senior from Saginaw, Mich. studying molecular genetics and anthropology. As a freshman, he was assigned to work in an E. coli lab under the mentorship of a doctoral student and Hannah Distinguished Professor Richard Lenski. He is a Dean’s Research Scholar in the College of Natural Science.

Originally published Feb. 23, 2014 on the Dean’s Research Scholars Blog

I didn't realize when I made my schedule this semester exactly how much research and laboratory time I had set myself up for. I'm taking four classes (five if you include a 1-credit volleyball class! It's two days a week of fun competition and much needed physical activity) and working in the Lenski lab about 5-10 hours a week.

Two of the four classes are labs. In both my Genomics Lab and Honors Cell and Molecular Biology Lab, I'm part of a group that needs to create and conduct an independent research project that is pretty much an equivalent to a cumulative final exam. The proposals and pre-proposals are due before Spring Break.

I've spent a lot of time reading journal articles for ideas, bouncing ideas off professors and group members and my graduate mentor in the lab, and going back to the drawing board time and time again. Luckily, I've had some experience in experimental design, or else I would feel much more overwhelmed about coming up with a 4- or 6-week molecular biology project.

My other two classes are both through the anthropology department. One of them is about learning research methods applicable to the "field," or how to study a certain group of people. The course is designed to "get our feet wet," so we are also creating a mini-ethnography over the course of the semester. I chose to study Resident Assistants in my building, since that's a demographic that I am already really close to and I think my results could actually be helpful to our staff.

The other anthropology class is about gender and I need to do an honors option to graduate through the Honors College. I have to write a research paper about any topic that interests me related to gender. I plan on doing something related to genetic counseling, since that would be most applicable to my future, so I think I'm going to look into how genetic counselors handle cases where babies have a genotype other than "XX" or "XY."

The RA job is keeping me busy, but I'm determined not to slack off during my last 10 weeks! Today, my sub-staff held an "MSU vs. U of M Basketball Watch Party" with food, games and prizes. We had a great turnout, despite the unfortunate results of the game... The University of Michigan is currently the only school where I have an interview scheduled for a Master's program in genetic counseling, so I can't let the rivalry impact my future education! I'm still waiting to hear back on a few more schools.

The Lenski lab has a new addition: a 3D printer! I came in one day to see this thing sitting on the end of our workbench:

3D printer

I haven't seen it in action just yet, but it still looks cool!


Top photo by Harley Seeley, photo of printer by Daniel Mitchell