Undergraduate Summer Research: Biological Sciences Student Amna Rathor

September 20, 2023

Conducting research over the summer through LSU Discover, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) or other means is a great way to get course credit toward your major and professional experience for your resume. Learn more about LSU student Amna Rathor's summer research project.

My summer conducting cancer research at LSU Health Science Center - New Orleans

LSU Student Amna Rathor

LSU student Amna Rathor gives a presentation of her undergraduate summer research at LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans

– Photo Credit: Amna Rathor

Name: Amna Rathor
Classification: Sophomore
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Major: Biological Sciences, pre-med track
Minor: Sociology

What type of research did you conduct over the summer?
The research I did over the summer was very hands-on and included a lot of benchwork. The research mainly included running polymerases chain reactions (PCRs), gels, and DNA methylation. The research topic focused on HPV-related cervical dysplasia and cancer. My title for this project was “Use of DNA Methylation Markers to Predict Cervical Dysplasia Outcomes.” An HPV infection is a sexually transmitted infection. When a woman has an HPV infection it can cause cervical dysplasia, which are lesions (damage to the cervical tissue/cells) along the cervix. A cervical dysplasia infection can range from low-grade to high-grade dysplasia, and most women with a low-grade dysplasia diagnosis clear the infection on their own without needing treatment. However, a few women progress to high-grade dysplasia which puts them at risk of progressing to cervical cancer.

Currently, there is no diagnostic tool that can tell us which women will progress and which will clear the infection on their own. My research's goal was to look at DNA methylation markers to see if DNA methylation can be used to predict cervical dysplasia outcomes. This study is important because ultimately, we want to be able to create an at-home test that would allow women to test themselves. The test would be able to tell them if they have an HPV infection and if they are at risk of progressive cervical dysplasia. This could decrease over-treatment by allowing women to have easier access to screening and information on treatment options. 

Where did you do your research internship? 
My internship was at Louisiana State University Health Science Center of New Orleans Medical School. 

What responsibilities did you have in your summer research work?
My responsibility during the summer was to conduct all aspects of my project and to be able to come up with a conclusion and answer my research question. Since I was in a microbiology lab, my responsibilities consisted of extracting DNA, genotyping, and DNA methylation. Part of my program included an abstract and poster submission and the presentation of the poster to judges.

What did you most enjoy about your project?
I mainly enjoyed being able to understand my research and why it is important. I had the opportunity to do research on my own with the help of my graduate student and mentor. Being able to do it on my own, pushed me to understand the research further and be able to fully explain it. That understanding made me enjoy my project since I knew every day what I would be doing and why, and what I was working towards and its importance.

What is the biggest lesson you learned?
The biggest lesson I learned is that there is a lot of trial and error that goes into research and medicine. It is important to be patient and to come up with possible solutions. 

“ The biggest lesson I learned is that there is a lot of trial and error that goes into research and medicine. It is important to be patient and to come up with possible solutions.  ”

How did this experience impact your education or goals?
Research has reinforced my education and goals. Since I was able to do research, it has encouraged me to continue with my goal of pursuing medicine because you learn many aspects of medicine through research. When it comes to my education, it has helped me understand the concepts and techniques that I am learning in my current classes.

Do you have any tips or advice for other LSU students seeking to do summer research? There are many opportunities to do research and it does not necessarily have to be through a program. Reaching out to professors is another way to get into research during the summer or even during the school year. Research is worthwhile and can really enhance your understanding of your interests.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank at LSU for helping to get this summer research project?
This was my second year doing research with LSUHSC and my mentor, Dr. Jennifer Cameron, has helped me and encouraged me so much. 

What is next for you?
I plan to continue research on campus and during the summers as well, ultimately, I plan to go to medical school.