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Molecular biology senior virtually interns at UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital

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Posted on Friday, December 10, 2021

A Westminster molecular biology senior participated in an eight-week summer internship project titled “Genetic Determinants of Infertility” at UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital researching infertility loss in couples.

Emily Lamark of Hickory, Pa., a heavily involved student at Westminster, got the opportunity to apply her class learnt skills in the real world through her internship this summer.

“Westminster’s curriculum prepared me for this internship with the biology and genetics courses I took,” said Lamark. “Without the basics I would not have understood this project.”

Lamark used bioinformatic techniques in her research to determine if genetic variants found within couples were pathogenic towards infertility. More specifically she focused on infertility later in the process, such as recurrent pregnancy loss or early conception losses.

Towards the end of Lamark’s project, she was able to determine two novel variants in her patients—AURKB, a key regulator for the onset of cytokinesis during mitosis and PLCD4, a protein coding gene that could potentially cause cancer in female reproductive organs.

“We found a higher percentage of our patients with potentially damaging variants that we had expected,” said Lamark.

Data that Lamark and her fellow interns studied may lead to a clinical diagnosis for infertility and, eventually, a targeted treatment for patients.

Although the internship was virtual, Lamark had weekly meetings with her team and go to present her findings at the end of the eight weeks.

Not only did Westminster’s curriculum prepare Lamark for this opportunity, but so did her research adviser Dr. Karen Resendes, director of the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research, and the Professional Development Center (PDC)—an on-campus resource for students that offers resume reviews, mock interviews and much more.

Lamark found her love for research during this internship and plans to find a job in the field after graduation while she studies for the MCAT. After, she intends on applying to medical school.

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