Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Quint ’21 to Research Genetics in Portugal
The HWS Update
MegQuint

Quint ’21 to Research Genetics in Portugal

A biochemistry major and philosophy minor, Meg Quint ’21 will spend the summer interning at a genetics research lab in Porto, Portugal. Quint’s internship is supported by the Bickley Family Endowed International Internship Fund, awarded through the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education.

Quint, who intends to pursue a career in clinical research and teaching in either genetics or neuroscience, will intern with the Department of Human Genetics at the Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA) in Porto, Portugal.

In collaboration with Dr. Olga Amaral at INSA, the research will focus on characterizing lysosomal storage diseases via cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. In addition, Quint will join Amaral at the 17th International Conference on Rare Diseases at the University of Warsaw. This conference is organized in collaboration with the Patient’s Association and experts at the University of Warsaw.

Quint has been preparing for the opportunity at INSA through academic coursework and research on the HWS campus. For one of Quint’s lab assignment during the 2019 spring semester in “General Genetics,” taught by Assistant Professor of Biology Shannon Straub, Quint chose to study Gauchers, one of the lysosomal storage diseases they will be researching at INSA. Lysosomes act as the waste disposal system of the cell. When storage diseases develop, a buildup of toxins begin to affect organ function and weaken bone tissue.

“The research will focus on the molecular and cellular characteristics of cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) and potentially macrophages derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells which were induced from skin fibroblasts of patients with lysosomal disease,” Quint says. “…The critical thinking skills obtained through my HWS coursework will allow me to understand the research and begin asking in-depth questions that could lead to new protocols and publication. I am excited to work alongside established genetic researchers, especially Dr. Amaral, to refine my cell culture skills and establish new protocols.”

Some of the techniques Quint learned at HWS include sterile cell culturing, DNA extraction, real time PCR and gel electrophoresis.

Quint is eager to participate in studies that will provide more in depth characterizations of lysosomal diseases, and that may eventually contribute to an improved quality of life for people struggling with lysosome storage diseases. “The potential impact of the research being conducted at INSA is significant. If successful they will be able to decrease the need for invasive and painful biopsies, which right now are essential to obtain cells for basic science research, clinical and diagnostic procedures. It will also bring researchers closer to identifying and isolating where gene mutations that cause lysosomal storage diseases occur.”

Quint also participated in two independent studies with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Elana Stennett in water desalination research. The Stennett group works to understand the factors that lead to the biofouling of purification membranes in water desalination systems under different conditions.

“Even though my work in the Stennett lab is chemistry-based research, and not biology, it gave me the opportunity to work side by side with Professor Stennett, develop good lab techniques and learn how to develop new protocols. These skills will serve me in my internship and further research at the graduate level,” Quint says.

On campus, Quint is the co-president of the HWS chapter of One Love and Student Team for Education and Prevention (STEP), which promotes positive sex education and healthy relationships. Quint is an intern with HWS Fribolin Farm and has developed programming for the spring “Wake the Farm” series. As the EcoRep on the Hillel board, Quint works to make HWS Hillel a more sustainable organization via composting at Shabbat dinners and creating programs that relate Jewish teachings and the environment. Quint also serves as the co-President and Theme House Manager of Random Acts of Kindness which works to make HWS a kinder and more accepting place. Quint helped found a student chapter of the American Chemical Society, works in the Office of Admissions and serves as an LGBTQ+ PRISM mentor.

In the photo above, Quint works alongside Diogo Ribeiro, a Ph.D. candidate at INSA to verify if induced pluripotent stem cells are truly pluripotent. If so, they will proceed to induce the stem cells into cardiomyocytes. 

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