Taylor Rosenthal is happy to be training in Kresge Gymnasium with her Albion College volleyball teammates after her work in the biology lab didn't go as planned this summer.
Funded by a grant from Albion's Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (FURSCA), the senior from Vicksburg, Mich., stayed on campus trying to build a version of a gene.
"I tried building a mutant gene by cutting from two different genes and putting those segments together to form a mutant gene sequence," Rosenthal said. "But there was an error three weeks into the project and I spent the rest of the time trying to troubleshoot different ways to isolate one of the segments."
Despite the setback in the lab, Rosenthal showed pictures of the gene segments on a gel along with sad emojis next to pictures of the genes that did not work and her future plans for her research at the Ciliate Molecular Biology Conference in Washington, D.C. in July. She left encouraged by positive comments from experts in the field.
"I explained I was frustrated, but their jaws dropped when I told them I had been working on the project for just 10 weeks," Rosenthal said, noting she received an Undergraduate Research Poster Award. "It was uplifting to have people with more background telling me I was doing really well. It was amazing to see the groundbreaking research (in the field)."
Working under the direction of adviser Marcella Cervantes, Rosenthal will resume work in the lab when classes begin at the end of August. If Cervantes has the mutant cells ready, Rosenthal plans to spend 6-8 hours a week on her directed study which will culminate in her thesis and a presentation at Albion's Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium in April.
"It is frustrating, patient work," Rosenthal said. "To isolate the genes, I put them in a machine and wait, while finding other things to do to keep moving forward."
On the volleyball court, Rosenthal was an all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association second team pick last season. She entered her senior year with 781 kills, placing her fifth on Albion's all-time list.
While her statistics are impressive, Rosenthal says volleyball is an important distraction from her work in the lab.
"I enjoy being busy," Rosenthal said. "I do better when I'm structured. But it is nice to be around my teammates and I don't think about the stress of research and classes."
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