My name is Matthew Kenwood, I am currently a senior, and I am in Dr. Kate Goddard’s research lab. The project on which I have worked is titled Does Pollution Drive Evolution. We study a bait fish known as a Fundulus heteroclitus commonly referred to as a killifish. The population we study lives in the Darby Creek downstream of a highly polluted EPA Superfund Site in South Philadelphia. Previous research by other laboratories has shown that some populations of these fish are resistant to highly toxic pollutants such as PCBs due to mutations that destroy the function of a protein necessary to bring the pollutants into the cell. Our goal was to characterize the subspecies of F. heteroclitus in the Darby Creek as we were studying populations never before studied. We determined the DNA sequence of a portion of the receptor that brings pollutants into the body to search for mutations that might confer resistance.
I joined Dr. Goddard’s lab in my freshman year in the hopes of being able to learn advanced techniques and increase my independent learning. As a whole, research has allotted me a sense of independence and is a predominate reason I will be continuing on to obtain my PhD in neuroscience in the Fall after leaving Ursinus. The highlight of my undergraduate research experience was most definitely the culmination of my honors project, presenting my work to my thesis committee and the rest of the Biology department. The positive and constructive feedback from my committee and all of the professors was gratifying. To anyone who is thinking about doing research, I offer a few tidbits of advice. For starters, you will learn quickly that science on paper is nothing like science in the lab, it frequently does not work. Secondly, troubleshooting is more of an art then it is a skill. And lastly, do not be afraid to ask questions. I owe Dr. Goddard, Dr. Finney, and my fellow researchers in the labs in which I have worked for shaping me into the researcher and scientist I am today and my ability to continue onto graduate school after my time at Ursinus.