The Albion College swimming and diving team is adopting the theme of pressure is a privilege as it prepares for the 2016-2017 season.
As training for the season begins and her research under the direction of biology professor Roger Albertson continues, Sarah Kilbride is feeling the pressure to make time for her academic and athletic pursuits.
"It's stressful and time management skills are definitely needed," Kilbride, a junior from Bloomfield Hills who helped the Britons achieve school record times in the medley relay events during the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championships last year, said. "It's such a privilege to do this sport that I love and be on the (academic) track that I am. It's such a unique experience to be able to do these things."
Kilbride and classmate Molly Hancock, a midfielder on the Briton women's soccer team, became interested in the work in Albertson's lab during a genetics class last year. The women are developing experiments using drosophila (fruit flies) to determine how chemical molecules react to light and whether that can lead to targeted cancer treatment.
"Current cancer treatments are not very specialized in that healthy cells are killed along with the unhealthy ones," Kilbride said in explaining the goal of the research. "The goal of a light activated compound is that you can shine a specific ultraviolet light on the tumor so the region is the only area receiving treatment. Some organic compounds have an on/off switch that the treatment works when light is shined on it."
When Kilbride and Hancock started, however, there was not a lot prior research to go on. The students were supported by the college's Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity for four weeks during the summer to develop protocols for the work that continues in the current semester as an independent study.
Because protocol for the research was being developed from scratch, Kilbride admitted real progress was being made in the last week of the summer work. Even with training for the swimming season and Hancock in the middle of the soccer season, Kilbride expects to be able to work more efficiently this fall.
Ultimately, Kilbride hopes the work will lead to completion of a paper or research poster and possibly a trip to the drosophila conference.
"I have learned patience is a virtue in research," Kilbride said. "I had protocols or manuals in all of the other labs I had worked in. Because of those manuals, we could pinpoint where things went wrong.
"It was sad (to end the summer work after four weeks) because we were getting positive results, but we didn't get as many as we wanted to," she added. "The goal of the summer was to administer tests to the three stages – embryo, larva and adult – of the fruit fly's life. We had success administering the compounds with the larval and adult stages, but we didn't have any success with the embryo stage. That's what we are hitting hard on this semester."
Working in Albertson's lab is only one of the opportunities Kilbride has taken as she prepares to apply for medical schools just a year from now. She participated in a mission trip to Nicaragua with the Global Medical Brigades last winter and traveled to France as part of her first-year experience class.
The sum of all of those Albion experiences, Kilbride hopes, will play an important role in the personal statement she writes in the application process.
"Albion has given me so many more opportunities than I could have imagined," Kilbride said. "The liberal arts education opened more doors than I thought possible during my first-year. If you would have told me I would have been research with fruit flies when I was 17 years old I don't think I would have believe it."