Liesje Steenkiste '14
In classes, lab periods are partially devoted to learning new techniques and designing our own experiments to answer biological questions. Instead of mindlessly following a prewritten procedure, which is the common practice at many universities, we are actively engaged in the design and execution of our own experiments. The excitement I felt as I collected data during introductory biology lab sessions encouraged me to pursue research experiences outside of the classroom.
Because of the passion and enthusiasm each professor has for their research, it is very easy to approach them to discuss the possibility of working with them. Research opportunities are not reserved for seniors and students of all experience levels are encouraged to join a lab if they are interested in research. I started research the summer after my first year at Denison in the lab of Dr. Eric Liebl and continued to work with him throughout my sophomore year. Last summer, I began working with Dr. Thompson and continued through my senior year.
In Dr. Thompson’s lab, we investigate the role of post-translational histone modifications in the repair of DNA damaged by UV-radiation. Our primary focus is on the functional role of the different methylation states of histone H3 lysine 79 in DNA damage repair processes. Understanding how DNA is repaired following exposure to UV-radiation has significant implications in cancer research.
My time in the lab is spent doing a variety of things, including culture preparation, UV exposures, westerns blots, imaging and data analysis. During our weekly lab meetings, we discuss our latest results, plan experiments for the future and discuss primary literature that is relevant to our research. Beyond the lab meetings, I often meet with Dr. Thompson whenever I have a question about my data or need guidance about what to do next. The objective of conducting undergraduate research at Denison is to develop the skills needed to become an independent, critical thinker and researcher. Over the course of my time in the lab, Dr. Thompson’s mentorship has facilitated my ability to develop my own hypotheses and function independently in the lab. My research experience in the Biology Department has defined my time at Denison and has been crucial to the development of my career ambitions.