Diving into DNA research

John Snee ’11

Here in the dead of winter, the notion of catching a few rays sounds pretty darn good, but some rays are more dangerous than others, as Anna Boudoures ’12 (St. Louis, Mo.) and John Snee ’11 (Washington, Pa.) have witnessed first-hand in their biology research.

Boudoures and Snee spent several weeks last summer exploring cellular DNA damage as well as potential repair paths, working closely with their adviser, Associate Professor of Biology Jeff Thompson. Using yeast cells, they examined the mutations of histones, specialized proteins that control the triggers to some DNA repair pathways.

The UV rays came into play as Boudoures and Snee intentionally damaged newly created yeast strains under a large canopy—roughly twice the size of a typical oven hood—that administered extremely intense UV rays.

These weren’t the kind of rays you catch on a weekend trip to the beach. “We had to wear thick plastic gloves when we worked with the UV hood,” said Boudoures. “And the rays were so strong that they actually started to alter the exterior coating of the gloves.”

“The yeast cells can only be exposed to the UVs for up to 120 seconds,” Snee said. “And we warn visitors to stay out when we’re performing this part of the research.”

Their work has been a continuation of Thompson’s research, which has been funded by a grant of more than $317,000 from the National Institutes of Health.

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