Lisa comes from Blackwood NJ, “an area with a lot of cement but not much agriculture”. Now she works as a summer assistant at Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center (RAREC) for vegetable pathologist Andy Wyenandt, and as a lab technician during the academic year in Foran Hall – a hub of biotech research at Rutgers.
As a sophomore doing independent research at Foran Hall, Lisa was introduced to Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and “real life lab work.” She describes PCR this way, “a polymerase chain reaction takes very small quantities of DNA (1 copy) and exponentially amplifies it and can make millions of copies by unzipping the DNA and copying each side”. This makes it possible for previously undetectable DNA to be detected.
During one summer, she and her mentor Dr. Wyenandt designed a protocol to make RAREC qPCR capable. So, while Lisa learned about opossums (she calls them badger rats!) and growing peppers, the RAREC pathology staff learned about PCR. The instrument at RAREC is “real time,” meaning a computer image graph shows the DNA amplification after each cycle of PCR so that electrophoresis analysis is not mandatory. In other words, the PCR identifies pathogens with particular features, quickly. Lisa enjoys putting her classroom knowledge to practical use. “I liked the dynamic of the lab and the respect of my peers (most of whom were far more educated than me).” Working at RAREC, “proved to me that I belonged in the lab!”
Education: Undergraduate at Rutgers University
Fields Of Study: Field Research Vegetable Pathology; PCR Lab Technician
Hometown: Blackwood, NJ
Internship: Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center
Update: Lisa has been hired as a duPont Crop Sciences Lab Tech and is working on soybeans.