Mount Desert Island High School students, from left, Taki Ishimura, Robbie Denegre, Georgia Hansbury, Sydney Eleftheriou and Matthew Cox (not pictured) recently completed internships in Jackson Laboratory research labs. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGAN MCOSKER

Students dive into research

By Jack Sasner

Special to the Islander

BAR HARBOR — Two weeks before graduation, five Mount Desert Island High School seniors presented results of their work as interns in research labs at The Jackson Laboratory.

The presentation was held in the laboratory’s auditorium on May 24.

“I really enjoyed presenting because the research was something that I genuinely felt excited about,” said student Taki Ishimura. “The challenge was boiling down over seven months of work into 10 minutes.”

These students have thrived in science classes during their time at MDI High School, but this internship gave them their first real world experience.

“I had taken a Computational Biology class at MDIHS where I was first exposed to real scientific inquiry,” he said. “Being outside the classroom and in a lab ecosystem was definitely a step beyond my comfort zone, but one that was inspiring.”

Ishimura worked with Susan McClatchy in the lab led by Gary Churchill. His project dealt with the genetic architecture of pancreatic insulin secretion using computational tools. His goal was to collect biological data to create a narrative that connects observed traits with specific genes.

“My mentors were teeming with knowledge that they were eager to share, and I was digging deeper into the frontier of scientific knowledge,” he said. “It was a really special thing.”

Robbie Denegre worked with Herb Pratt and Emily Spaulding in Elissa Chesler’s lab, focusing on the biology of addiction. His talk was called “The Use of Lego Operant Conditioning Boxes in Addiction Education.”

The process of meiosis, a particular type of cell division, was Sydney Eleftheriou’s focus. Chihiro Emori was her mentor in the lab led by Ewelina Bolcun-Filas.

Georgia Hansbury worked with Austin Korgan in Kristen O’Connell’s lab. Her project addressed the expression of certain proteins in a particular part of the brain.

Matthew Cox presented on “The Influence of Type 2 Diabetes on Vascular Density and Neuroinflammation.” He worked in the lab led by Gareth Howell, with Kristen Onos as his mentor.

The five interns all were close during this process, sharing questions and findings, but they worked independent of each other in their respective labs.

Mike McKernan, the laboratory’s program director for STEM and undergraduate education, hosted the presentations. Megan McOsker, the gifted-and-talented specialist at MDI High School, coordinated the internships and guided those interested through the process.

The work has helped the students develop, as Ishimura put it, “a robust foundation for future research experiences.”

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