Welcome to Lab Notes! This is a new Hill News column in which we will be featuring a student and/or faculty research team on campus each week. Check back weekly for new updates on the sciences at SLU!
At first glance, Johnson Hall of Science is a vast, sleek expanse of glass and natural light, with wide, echoing hallways and office doors plastered with posters, cartoons, and sticky notes. Behind the lab doors, however, are countless science majors and lab students, busily carrying out experiments in safety glasses and rubber gloves with a muted hum reminiscent of a beehive.
I ventured into one such lab (Johnson 206) with the intent to interview the first research team that would be profiled in Lab Notes, but I quickly learned that being part of a student-faculty research team at SLU is more than just straight experiment-observe-rinse-and-repeat. The photos stuck to the many fridges were funny and poignant, and as I got to know the team better over the course of the interview, I sensed true camaraderie in their close-knit band of people working to improve the world. Indeed, they were so immersed in their work that they kept running their tests while answering my questions!
The Hill News (HN): First and foremost, what kind of research are you doing at SLU?
Marc Delaney ’13: Good question! Oh wow, where to start? Basically, we’re looking at ways to treat certain diseases, and to reduce symptoms.
Professor Karin Heckman: Yeah, our research is dealing with the immune system. We’re interested in how to manipulate the immune system to treat diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, M.S. (multiple sclerosis), and melanoma.
HN: So who’s on this research team, and how did you get to be working together?
Gary Gilmond ’12: Well, it’s pretty much everyone you see here in the lab… about 9 people. We’ve got Karin, Nate Kaufman ’14, Jenny Clauss ’13, Emily Palmer ’12, and Marc Delaney ’13.
Professor Karin Heckman: Wow, how did we get together? Some students have been recruited, and some have just approached me saying they’re interested in the kinds of things I do, and for the most part they’ve just come right in.
HN: What do you hope to get out of your research in the end–publishing, conferences, bragging rights?
Professor Karin Heckman: [laughs] Haha, bragging rights, definitely! We’re mostly focused on getting publications, and to be able to share our research findings at conferences.
HN: What’s the funniest or strangest thing that’s happened to you while doing your research?
Marc Delaney ’13: We have a lot of funny quotes in our lab… our lab motto is “Only the Best.”
Emily Palmer ’12: It’s so true! Let’s look at the quote box–we have a quote box of random/weird things people have said.
Professor Karin Heckman: I once said that yellow is intriguing.
Gary Gilmond ’12: My culture of white blood cells outgrew Marc’s culture of cancer cells. By a lot, too.
HN: Every student interested in doing research is probably inundated with advice and rules.What trivial but essential piece of advice would you give a SLU student looking into doing research here?
Gary Gilmond ’12: Don’t let the aspirator fall! [laughs]
Marc Delaney ’13: Don’t use paper towels to take notes.
Professor Karin Heckman: That’s a great one right there, even though we do that every day.
Emily Palmer ’12: We have a plastics pledge, it’s on the fridge.
Professor Karin Heckman: It says we’re committed to not making a lot of waste. But since everything has to be sterile when you’re working on a project like ours, this lab can generate a lot of waste.
So, SLU students, if you’ve ever been interested in getting involved with research, what better day than today? Professors are always friendly and willing to answer questions or give advice, and as you’ve read, being on a research team is incredibly rewarding. Be sure to check back next week to read about Jon Rosales and his students on a recent research trip to Alaska!