Asking Their Own Questions: Jupiter Kalinowski ’23
During the last few days of the fall term, Jupiter Kalinowski ’23, who studied protein biochemistry and biological research methods at Bennington, was busy in the lab. They were running the final experiment of their senior work.
“The experiments I'm doing in this lab, no one has ever done before,” said Kalinowski. “Using a baker's yeast as a model organism, I'm trying to determine what effects the removal of a specific part of a protein's sequence, an amino acid called lysine, will have on how quickly it can be degraded by the cell." The mutant proteins that are needed for these experiments were designed and created at Bennington.
Protein biochemistry research like this could be useful in understanding any number of human diseases, Kalinowski explained. Many neurodegenerative diseases—such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s diseases—are thought to be caused by mutated proteins.
“These proteins aren't doing their job, and they are not being degraded by the body either,” Kalinowski said. “They can form aggregates or plaques where they sort of connect to each other and jumble up, and this might be interfering with regular function in the central nervous system.”
Gaining an understanding of whether and which lysines in a protein are important for its degradation could help scientists to understand why this happens and relate to new therapeutic targets in translational labs.
Kalinowski feels fortunate to have conducted self-directed research like this because it has opened them up to great career opportunities and a sense of confidence in what they do.
“Obviously the experiments that we do here are very specific, but a lot of the methods that we use are widely applicable,” Kalinowski said.
Students at Bennington get to spend their time doing hands-on, independent research projects: learning not only how to use equipment and memorize theory, but how to ask and answer their own questions in the lab. This is the type of work that a lot of people don’t get to experience until graduate school. Jupiter Kalinowski ’23
Kalinowski will put that experience to work straight away as a research technician in the laboratory of Dr. Kathleen Burns at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Fellow Bennington alum Carlos Mendez-Dorantes, PhD, ’15 is currently a postdoctoral fellow in that same laboratory. Kalinowski plans to work in Dr. Burns' lab for two years before applying to PhD programs themselves.