Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Natalie Lovinger: Hi I’m Natalie! I am originally from Evanston Illinois which is just outside of Chicago, but I am a recently graduated senior at Barnard who studied Biology and Anthropology. Outside of class and working in the Snow Lab I have enjoyed volunteering with animals and working as a TA in the Biology department throughout college. I am on the pre-vet track and I would love to continue working with animals someday, but for now I am planning on taking a few years to work before heading into any graduate school program. Although I have no solid plans yet, I do hope the next few years will include some form of science research, inspired in no small part by the amazing experience I have had working in the Snow Lab.
Nora McNamara-Bordewick: My name is Nora and I grew up in Boston, MA! At Barnard I was a Cellular and Molecular Biology major and a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor. Outside of academics I conducted research in the Snow Lab, volunteered as an EMT for CUEMS, and was involved in both the Rock Climbing Club and the Equestrian Club. Since graduating in 2020, I have been working full-time doing research in the Kranzusch Lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute while applying for MD-PhD programs.
Melissa Flores: I'm Melissa and I grew up in Los Angeles, CA. I studied Psychology at Barnard with minors in Chemistry and Biology. I was the president of the CU Pre-Vet Society and spent time volunteering with shelter animals as well as studying companion dogs in the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab. After completing my degree, I came back to Barnard to teach introductory biology lab. I've been the department administrator in Biology since Aug 2018 and joined the Snow Lab during the summer of 2019. As of June 2022, I will be starting my PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying honey bee neural networks, genomics, and behavior.
Could you summarize your publication from this past year?
Nosema ceranae are a known pathogen of honey bees. Recently, we’ve shown that Halofuginone, a promising antimalarial drug, can be used to treat honey bees against Nosema by inhibiting an enzyme involved in preparing amino acids—the building blocks of proteins—to be used for protein production. However, we also found that a dosage that is effective against this pathogen is toxic to bees.
In this study, we sought to characterize the cellular stress pathways affected by this drug. Using RNAseq, we found that bees treated with Halofuginone mount a response by altering the expression of genes involved in various aspects of protein production via the Integrated Stress Response (ISR). These included genes involved in creating ribosomes—which synthesize proteins—as well as other components involved in translating mRNA into their protein products. tRNA synthesis and ribosome-associated quality control genes were also affected. Honey bees therefore seem to activate a response more focused on re-establishing homeostasis of ribosome function than countering the limitation of amino acids, as other organisms appear to do when the ISR is activated. Because we studied this in sterile workers who would have access to pollen stores (from which amino acids can be derived), our results suggest that their cellular machinery may respond by focusing on ribosome stability rather than amino acid supplies.
What have you valued most about your experiences in the Snow lab and/or about your experiences as researchers? What is your favorite Snow Lab memory?
NL: I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to do lab research while still in undergrad because it has opened my eyes to a much wider world of biology than I ever thought existed. While doing research with Professor Snow I have learned a lot about biology, research techniques, and honey bees, while also becoming friends with all of the other wonderful students in my lab. This summer many of us did Summer Research Institute, during which we had to be in the lab everyday, and that allowed us to really perfect our research skills and bond as a lab. One of my favorite things to do during SRI was to play with the infant bees we sometimes did experiments with. Since they can’t sting or fly yet you could just hold them in your hands, so cute! I really enjoyed SRI so much and would highly recommend anyone interested in research to participate one summer.
MF: I've valued the incredible mentorship by Professor Jon Snow! I could not be starting this next chapter doing research with honey bees if he had not imparted his passion and love for his work on me. My favorite Snow Lab memory is when we all went to watch this beautiful documentary, Honeyland, together. I also loved being able to paint new boxes for the hives and designing one of our lab t-shirts since it let me express my artistic abilities in this scientific setting.
NMB: My favorite thing about the Snow lab was certainly the community! I loved working side by side with other Barnard students, both receiving and giving advice on everything from the details of a particular experiment to choosing courses. I also greatly valued Professor Snow’s incredible mentorship in the lab and beyond, from teaching me how to use a pipette on my first day in the lab to advising me on careers in science research. I think my favorite memory from the Snow lab was the summer I spent doing full-time research in the lab. I felt like I was able to make lots of progress on my projects while also having a ton of fun with my labmates! Some highlights included watching newborn bees hatch in the lab and taking a day to paint new boxes for the hives!
What advice would you give a student interested in joining the Snow lab community? What would you describe as the key to success in a Barnard Biology lab while balancing a challenging STEM course load?
NMB: This advice is not specific to the Snow lab, but I think that in joining any lab it is important to be open, curious, and not afraid to ask questions! In terms of balancing research and academics, I actually found that my research experience was incredibly helpful in my courses because it gave me context for the experiments we learned about in class! Researching in the Snow lab also gave me great relationships within the Barnard Biology department which meant that I always had a group of friends to study with and professors to turn to for any questions about course content. I think that drawing those connections between the classroom and the lab as well as completing schoolwork during downtime in the lab were both key to my academic and research success.
I am happy to talk with anyone interested in learning more about the Snow lab, my research, my time at Barnard, or anything else! I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NL: To underclassmen looking to start research in the Snow lab or any other lab I would encourage you to just reach out to the professor you are interested in working with. Professors here want to include undergraduates in their research and the best way to reach them is in person or through email, that's how I joined the Snow lab. All of the professors I’ve ever interacted with in the Biology department want the best for their students and are more than willing to help us. For the Snow lab specifically I would say that you can decide the amount of time and level of commitment you want to put into the lab. If you want a bigger project, you just have to show your interest and dedication to the lab and your hardwork will not go unnoticed. Students in the lab who have less time to spend there are just as much a part of the community as the students who spend more time, so it isn’t about hierarchy, just about giving the time you can. It can be hard to balance the lab, school work, and other responsibilities, but I think at the end of the day the Snow lab has only helped me with my major at Barnard than hurt me. There are certainly weeks that I have a big exam and can’t come in as much as I would have liked to, but Snow is very understanding. The stress of balancing two things at once is made worth it by how much I learn in the lab that is directly related to my classes.
Just to hit home how grateful I am to Professor Snow and everyone in the bee lab, joining the lab was one of the best decisions I made in college. I have learned so much about science, so much about what I want to do in the future, made so many good friends. If you are thinking about joining a lab at Barnard, you should! If anyone has questions about majoring in biology at Barnard or working in a research lab feel free to email me at email@example.com.
MF: My biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there! All of the biology faculty at Barnard are so kind and approachable. I had zero research experience and really struggled to call myself a 'scientist' until my senior year (and wouldn't call myself a scientist until about 2 years ago). My biggest regret was not starting research sooner than that! I believe that the key to success in research is to be endlessly curious and ask questions. We all come from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. It's not possible to know everything about everything. That's why it's so important to just ask when you don't know something. It may be that a question you are wondering about is one that you'll one day be solving the answer for! I also think being resourceful and hunting down answers in the literature when you can will help you gain confidence over the content you are studying. Knowledge is power! Just remember to carve out "you" time to avoid burn out.
I am incredibly passionate about bringing underrepresented voices into STEM. If you'd like to chat about how to get into STEM, being a Barnard biologist, graduate school, etc. then please don't hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.