Alleles to Apples – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Alleles to Apples

What’s the genetic fingerprint of an apple? 

This summer Gillian Meade ’11 is finding out.  Supported by the Brenda and David Rickey Foundation, Meade is working at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), a division of Cornell University, researching with the USDA Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU).

“I’m working with the PGRU on a genetic fingerprinting project for apple populations,” Meade says.  “I do polymearse chain reactions (PCR) in order to ‘fingerprint’ alleles”-the alternative forms of a particular gene-“and analyze the data produced from that reaction. This data shows allelic diversity within the sample population I’m working with.”

 “I am learning a lot about the PCR process and how it can be used to access diversity,” says Meade.  “The lab work has been a new experience for me, and I’ll be able to take a lot of that new knowledge of laboratory techniques away with me.”

Working with Amy Szewc-Macfadden, a laboratory technician for the PGRU, Meade says she is learning a lot.

“Amy is both a boss and a teacher who provides a very different experience than a classroom experience,” Meade says. “Working for someone like Amy requires more responsibility and independence and provides an opportunity to learn through asking questions as well as trial and error.  Often in a classroom the student is guided the whole way; at the Ag Station I have the ability to learn through doing with a little guidance here and there.”

Meade is a biology and environmental science double major with an education minor. When she’s not studying for class, she serves as a biology teaching assistant and a tutor with the Center for Teaching and Learning.  She is also part of the Colleges Chorale, Campus Greens, Close Knit, and William Smith Club Rugby. After graduation, she plans to enter the research field.

“I have little idea as to what specific field I would like to go into as a career,” Meade says. “However, I know that I want to continue to learn about science and be involved in research. This research opportunity is allowing me to test the waters and see if genetics could be something I would be interested in pursuing as a career path.”

“The research I am doing has reaffirmed that I want to follow a scientific career path after college,” she says.

Meade’s research is supported through the Brenda and David Rickey Foundation, which recently approved a three year, $45,000 grant to support students in the Summer Science Research Program who are undertaking research projects in Geneva at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), a division of Cornell University.  The foundation’s support marks the first time the summer program has received funds specifically earmarked for projects performed at the NYSAES.