Dr. Sultan Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Biology, spent this summer researching C. elegans as part of a fellowship at MIT. Jenkins is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, which has a number of fellowships within the organization. One type of fellowship is known as a visiting professorship which allows newer assistant professors who work at teaching institutions (like ENC) to work with a more seasoned professor who at a research university (like MIT).
At MIT, Dr. Jenkins worked with Dr. H Robert Horvitz, who received a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2002. Dr. Horvitz is most known for his work with C. elegans, a microscopic worm that lives in the soil and feeds on bacteria. It’s commonly used for genetic and medicinal study.
Dr. Jenkins’ research involved mutant worms that were egg-laying deficient; the worm either laid its eggs late in development, or the eggs hatched inside the worm. This particular mutant has never been characterized before. First, he mapped the location of the gene that caused this. Next, Dr. Jenkins explained, he is going to do suppressor screens, to suppress the mutation, to identify what other genes are involved in the pathway.
“All animals… have genes, and a lot of our genes have homologs, which is why we can use another animal to study various biological processes.” said Dr. Jenkins, “The more common research animals are rats, but they are much more expensive to maintain. On the other hand, you can grow 100 C. elegans in a petri dish… they have a very short life cycle, and answer the same type of questions… and, it’s an inexpensive model which is useful to college students, like ours.”
The hope of this fellowship is to allow Dr. Jenkins to bring what he learned at MIT to ENC, and start his own C. elegans lab. This will allow undergraduates to do independent research. “For biology students thinking about their senior research, this is an opportunity to seriously think about working with C. elegans. It’s a fun animal to work with,” Dr. Jenkins pressed. “To get your research published will help immensely in your undergrad, and this research is publishable. It’s a big advantage.”
If you’re interested in doing undergraduate research with C. elegans contact Dr. Jenkins at Sultan.Jenkins@enc.edu.