Student finds passion for researching disease through MSE

optical micrograph of a section of a mouse kidney

Optical micrograph of a section of a mouse kidney in which skeletal stem cells have been transplanted and allowed to differentiate into bone organoids. The work is a collaboration between the Donnelly Group and Dr. Matthew Graeenblatt at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Materials science and engineering is a field that bills itself as one in which students don’t have to choose between their interests in biology, chemistry, mathematics and a number of other disciplines. Instead, students like Beth Straight ’23 can discover their academic passion through materials science before deciding which direction their careers should take.

Straight was recently featured by Hacks and Happenings – the newsletter of Cornell’s Office of Undergraduate Biology – and shared how her time as a researcher in a materials science and engineering lab helped inspire her research focus.

Beth Straight headshotAs an undergraduate, Straight joined the laboratory of associate professor Eve Donnelly, where she became interested in the biological pathways in cancers and stem cell development. Specifically, she researched the material properties of human and mouse bone to establish diagnostic techniques and potential therapeutics for patients with bone-related diseases.

"Beth is one of the most highly productive and motivated undergraduates I have ever worked with at Cornell,” Donnelly said. “She moves research forward through her strong leadership, project management, willingness to tackle new problems, and persistence to get the project done."

After finishing her time in the Donnelly Lab, Straight joined the Sardana Lab, where she’s now characterizing localization and function of Golgi localized proteins, using yeast as a model organism to study sorting pathways and secretory trafficking relevant to human disease pathways.

“During my time in the Donnelly Lab, my work with biological pathways in cancers and stem cell development heavily influenced my interest in the Sardana Lab,” Straight said. “My MSE research experience also helped me develop critical research skills such as data analysis, critical thinking, and imaging.”

Ultimately, Straight is considering a career in the field of forensic analysis. This summer she’s also chasing another interest by working on sustainability and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

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