Courtney Wolfe, Junior, Chemistry
What do you research?
I research the nucleotide modification enzyme, RsuA and its role in bacterial ribosomal assembly. The enzyme, RsuA, converts uridine to pseudouridine. This process increases the stability of base pairing and causes changes in local thermodynamics which alters the ability of other proteins to bind. I am currently conducting my research by analyzing RNA samples with mass spectrometry. The readout from mass spectrometry instrument gives mass peaks that can be attributed to various RNA fragments.
What would you tell a friend who would want to become involved in research?
I would tell them to do research because it’ll be one of the best and most rewarding experiences of their life.
How do you think you have grown as a student and/or as a professional as a result of research?
Prior to working in a research lab, I had no confidence in my laboratory abilities and felt uncomfortable in my academic labs. My time in Dr. Abeysirigunawardena’s research lab has made the lab a second home to me and I am working on projects that I never imagined I could be working on. In the future, I will even be working with a radioactive isotope of phosphorus which is typically restricted to graduate student work. I am now more knowledgeable, not only on laboratory equipment, but also on the science behind the experiment.
How has your research experience impacted your overall journey as a college student?
My research experience has had a significant impact on my journey as a college student. Prior to joining Dr. Abeysirigunawardena’s laboratory, I was extremely shy, never talked to my professors, and did not do more than necessary in my academic labs. I have gained numerous connections from working in Dr. Abey’s lab and have gotten to know most of the Kent State chemistry department. Research has made me become more independent and proactive in my classwork. In academic labs, I now volunteer to demonstrate the experiment for the class and help others understand what is going on.
What are the benefits of undergraduate research?
There are so many benefits to doing undergraduate research. You get hands on experience working one-on-one with a faculty member. You develop connections not only with your faculty mentor, but also with other people in the department, graduate students, other undergraduate researchers, even people from labs at different Universities. Research labs involve reading a lot of research papers, which provides practice for students entering graduate programs. I think the biggest benefit though is the amazing lab family you gain.