Cell Mates

Cell Mates

David Bodine enlists Colby researchers in a bid to unlock the genetic mysteries of blood disorders

By Steve Heacock


The Colby-NIH Pipeline

Professor Julie Millard, the Dr. Gerald and Myra Dorros Professor of Life Sciences and chair of the Chemistry Department, and her colleagues know ,Bodine materialŠ when they see it. But the honor, which goes to especially promising, budding scientists, carries an admonition.

,I tell each one before they go to Bethesda,Š Millard said, ,,Don‰t mess it up for the next one.‰Š

It seems to be working. André Pilon ‰03, in the Ph.D. program at George Washington University and currently working with Bodine in the lab, says it‰s obvious that people are ,coming here for a reason. Dave has a genuine interest in us doing well.Š

,He knows research and good academic training are the building blocks,Š said Whitney King, the Dr. Frank and Theodora Miselis Professor of Chemistry and associate chair of the department. ,On the reaccreditation committee, we are looking at outcomes, and in the sciences he was a logical person to talk to. Dave gave us very high marks and helps us with external reviews of all kinds. He is helping us become a better institution as an outside evaluator. His professional credibility is just tremendous. The unspoken qualification to get into grad school is research. It‰s not required, but it‰s a qualification. Dave‰s mentoring and encouragement go a long way in helping us step up in that area.Š

Millard, now in her 16th year at Colby, stresses undergraduate research as an integral part of the Colby chemistry experience.

,Working in a lab and presenting at a conference or meeting are goals for us here,Š she said. ,We‰ve provided research opportunities for as long as anyone can remember. And David Bodine has been extremely helpful. He came up to do a chemistry seminar, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant overseers invited him as an outside expert,he‰s just been a great resource. When we were starting to do work with cells, he sent us a whole line of cells and all the media we needed. If I recommend someone, he takes them. He‰s just brilliant at letting them blossom there. They all come back with rave reviews about the lab,and they all love David Bodine.Š

NIH/Colby Alumni
  • Laurie Girard Eidt ‰93: Graduate of Washington University, Physical Therapist, Stamford, Conn.
  • Stephanie Andriole ‰98: Graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Genetic Counselor, New York City
  • Claire Overgaag ‰98: Graduate of Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Professionals, Nurse Practitioner, San Francisco area
  • Douglas Nilson ‰99: Graduate of Northwestern Medical School, Emergency Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island
  • Tiffany Frazar ‰01: Graduate of University of Vermont Medical School, Resident in Pediatrics, Boston, Mass.
  • Lindsey Rowland ‰01: Graduate of St. George‰s University School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Jessica Weisbein ‰01: Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Medical School
  • André Pilon ‰03: Currently serving in NIH lab
  • Serena Vayda ‰03: Currently serving in NIH lab
  • Nicholas Markham ‰04: Attending Vanderbilt Medical School, M.D./Ph.D. Program
  • Erin Parry ‰06: Attending the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, M.D./Ph.D. Program
  • Emily Devlin ‰07: Currently at Colby, slated to return to NIH lab
50%#Pilon has been in the Ph.D. program at George Washington University since 2004, part of the NIH Graduate Partnerships Program. At Colby he worked in the research laboratory of Julie Millard, the Dr. Gerald and Myra Dorros Professor of Life Sciences and chair of Chemistry, and discovered that the biochemistry program was a feeder for Bodine's NIH lab. Once Pilon started working for Bodine, he recruited one of his Colby classmates, Serena Vayda '03.

On the face of it, Vayda, a biology major with an environmental science concentration, was perhaps not an obvious natural fit for Bodine's lab. But she has flourished. Working in the Flow Cytometry Core Facility, her work is highly specific and technical. Using flow cytometry, Vayda can analyze single cells, determine their size, and analyze proteins on the cell surfaces. The flow cytometer scans 10,000 cells per second. "We're trying to come up with a new way to correct defective cells, and that could mean gene therapy,— she said. "You could introduce a therapeutic gene into a cell using a virus. But you have to know just what cells you have targeted. Eventually, a corrected non-stem cell just dies, but a corrected stem cell will keep making blood cells forever.—

Vayda plans to enter medical school next fall, perhaps to pursue hematology.

The Colby-Bodine connection has also benefited Emily Devlin '07, a Colby senior from Pennington, N.J., who managed to spend eight months in Bodine's lab. She worked with the Biology Department to turn her Washington Semester into NIH lab work, tacking Jan Plan on the front end of that semester and a summer internship on the back end. She plans to return after graduation, work in Bodine's lab again, and eventually enter an M.D./Ph.D. program.

Supervised closely by Bodine, Devlin was given two projects to work on by herself. "That was really fun,— she said. "He is involved with everyone in that lab. He is constantly educating everyone. He trained me and taught me a tremendous amount.— One project Devlin worked on was generating a mouse model for a rare blood disease, Diamond Blackfan Anemia. This is the project she will return to later this year. Devlin's other project focused on DNA regulatory elements in the beta-globin gene clusters. Her father, with a Ph.D. in toxicology, and her mother, an engineer, were enthusiastic about Devlin's NIH opportunity.

Pilon and Devlin, with encouragement and guidance from Bodine, traveled to Orlando in December to
present at the 48th annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. Both researchers gave 10-minute talks in front of approximately 200 people. Their work had been chosen from nearly 7,000 submissions for about 875 oral presentations. Word got back to Bodine, he said, that Pilon and Devlin were the most polished and poised presenters in their sessions.

"It impresses me that Colby trains these students in a certain way,— he said. "The hands-on approach is really there in Julie Millard's lab. We have students and graduates from other schools here, too, of course. But the Colby kids start so much faster. The day they get here they are doing the science. The others are great, too, but they have to ramp up. The Colby kids come here knowing how to keep a notebook, organize their time, and keep data.—

Pilon agreed. "The amount of research and hands-on science is really rigorous [at Colby],— he said. "Even in the first years, you're not just staring down the barrel of a microscope sketching pictures of cell structures. You're doing real science and learning important techniques in the lab courses. And then you move on to Julie Millard and it's a research-mentor relationship. Then to get the opportunity to work with Dave here and go to Orlando, where we can hit up the big names in hematology, the ones who write the books. It gives us a chance to give our talks, maybe attract the attention of someone whose lab we might want to visit. It gives us a chance to line up our post-doc experience.—
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