Two LIU Brooklyn biology majors have earned a major science honor: Martha Lewis and Kimaada Allete, both from East Flatbush, have been selected to present their work at the New England Science Symposium on March 2.
The prestigious symposium, which provides a forum for college students to share their biomedical and health-related research through oral and poster presentations, will take place at Harvard Medical School.
Lewis and Allette are members of LIU Brooklyn’s Minority Biomedical Research Support-Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS/RISE) program, which promotes minority participation in the sciences.
“I’ve done a lot of presentations in different places but this means a lot, because it’s Harvard,” said Martha Lewis, 27, who will graduate in May with a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry. Last April, she presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) at the group’s annual meeting in San Diego.
Lewis’ poster presentation will feature research she conducted last summer during an internship at Penn State University College of Medicine. She investigated different pathways to preventing and treating skin cancer, using the drugs Rapamycin and Torin.
“I found that Torin works better than Rapamycin, which is used right now for treating these cancers,” Lewis said.
Lewis is looking to attend grad school and become a physician-scientist, a dream heavily influenced by growing up during the civil war in her native Sierra Leone. When she was 10, she witnessed the destruction of her village by roaming gangs.
“I saw so many people die in the civil war. I asked myself how I could help and I wanted to dedicate my life to medicine,” said Lewis, who is crafting an article that is expected to appear in March in an ASBMB publication.
Kimaada Allette, 23, of Trinidadian heritage, had initially planned on studying pharmacy, but her brief stint working at a pharmacy led her switch to biochemistry. She also interned last summer at Penn State, where her project involved comparing gene-sequencing techniques. The goal of the project was to identify the accuracy and efficiency of traditional and new technologies used in sequencing.
“I compared an older technique, Sanger, with a new one, Illumina, which involved different steps, including polymerase chain reaction, a major step in the new technology,” said Allette, a member of the college’s Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program who will graduate in December. She found that the new technique increased mutations, and was not as reliable as the old one.
“The experimental design developed by this project can be incorporated into new computational programs to enable the increased recovery and accuracy of DNA sequencing,” she said.