Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Faces of SRAP: Alex and Heather

The Summer Research Apprentice Program has officially come to a close, but we will still be featuring a few SRAP participants on our blog. Stay tuned! 

Alex Mackiel and Heather Peters both enjoy science and getting their hands dirty while they conduct research.

“One of my favorite parts about my project is being in the lab,” says Alex, a senior from Minnesota. “I like doing things on the computer as well as being in the lab. I like being surrounded by science.”

Heather, a junior from Cheyenne, Wyoming echoes his thoughts, saying, “I like working with people, the hands-on activities and learning new stuff.”

Alex Mackiel (left), Dr. Gomelsky (middle)
and Heather Peters (right)
Alex and Heather applied their love of science this summer while working in the Molecular Biology Department under Dr. Mark Gomelsky.

In technical terms, Alex explains their research. “For our project, we are using near-infrared light to active a protein called guanylate cyclase,” he says. “We have to engineer a protein that can respond to light and produce the second messenger molecule. This messenger is able to do different things in the body.”

The research that Heather and Alex conducted could help to revolutionize the medical field.

“The near-infrared light penetrates deep into mammalian tissues and is completely harmless,” says Dr. Gomelsky. “If we implant light-activated proteins into engineered cells that are designed to cure medical conditions, we can control these cells inside an animal.”

After high school, Heather hopes to join the Air Force ROTC program and become a psychologist for the Air Force. Alex hopes to go to medical school to become a surgeon.

SRAP is a six-week, intensive research program for high school students. It is based at the University of Wyoming and is sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR. To learn more about the program, click here, or search “SRAP” in the archives.

By Robin Rasmussen
Photo by Robert Waggener

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