The Future is Bright for Biochemistry Major

August 8, 2019

Laser beams and glowing DNA are all in a day’s work for Max Howe, a science scholar and summer research fellow.

Webster native Max Howe ’20 is a biochemistry major with his sights set on medical school. As a Science Scholar at Fisher, Howe’s senior year will include a research project supervised by faculty in his department. Howe was eager to get a head start on his project, as well as practice his lab skills. His research uses flow cytometry, a technique where carefully focused lasers scan and analyze individual cells suspended in a liquid.

Howe is building on previous student research in Dr. Kevin Callahan's lab, which used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to insert a fluorescent protein into the DNA of S. cerevisiae, also known as baker's yeast. The colorful proteins illuminate when exposed to the focused light, revealing activated genes. Howe's research will test a range of factors to see if and how they increase or decrease gene expression. The green fluorescent glow of the genetically modified protein will allow him to see where and when the genes were activated.

For Howe, the day-to-day work of full-time research has been eye-opening. He also spoke about the difference between studying something in class versus in the lab. For example, he’s studied how certain processes work but doesn’t get to see it happen in class.

“It’s so interesting how small, subtle changes can make such a difference,” he said. “Being able to experience that in real-time and see the results immediately is pretty interesting.”

While the specific research he’s conducting at Fisher won’t relate directly to his future career, Howe emphasizes how important it was to him to have a solid research background moving forward, and how it challenged his perceptions of research. “I didn’t know what everyday life would be like doing research, five days a week.”

Looking forward, Howe, along with other student research fellows, will likely present his research at a conference. In the meantime, he plans to continue working on his research during his senior year at Fisher.