Hunter Jones ’20 — This summer, I am working in a research lab at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Oslo, Norway. The ability to travel to Oslo in the first place was only possible thanks to the generosity of the G. Michael Dill Fund, NMBU, and Dr. Alex Crawford (son of Ken Crawford, Wabash Class of 1969). I cannot put into words the gratitude I feel to have been given such an incredible opportunity to work on a fascinating project while simultaneously experiencing a brand-new culture. On a broad scale, Dr. Crawford’s lab at NMBU utilizes zebrafish to model rare epileptic conditions and identify potential treatments typically through drug repurposing or biodiscovery of natural products. The goal of my research here is to develop a bioassay using a zebrafish model of a rare genetic epileptic condition, DHPS deficiency syndrome, to carry out a large-scale drug repurposing screen for this disease. Any approved drugs identified by this screen will be attractive drug candidates for immediate clinical evaluation in the small number of pediatric patients with DHPS mutations, who currently have no other treatment options.
The biggest, and most comforting, lesson I have learned in my time in Norway is that most experimental procedures transcend international boundaries. Many of the same molecular biology techniques I have learned at Wabash College, specifically in the Sorensen-Kamakian lab, are also used here (despite a couple of instruction manuals in Norwegian). I was initially very intimidated about the idea of researching in a place that wasn’t familiar like Wabash, but this experience has been incredibly beneficial to bolstering my confidence in a laboratory setting. It’s hard to know how prepared you are for something until you are really tested and working on an entirely different continent has helped to show how much Wabash has really prepared me in the last three years.
Outside of the lab, Oslo has been an incredible place to explore in my (very limited) free time. Norway is known as the “land of the midnight sun” because there is no point in time during the summer that is really dark. The sun “sets” at around 11 pm and “rises” at 3 am, but even when the sun is down it never really gets that dark here. This has honestly been a blessing in disguise because I feel productive all the time. I’ll leave the lab at 10:30-11 pm and still feel full of energy because it looks like it is just now starting to get dark. The scenery here is gorgeous, and I have tried to get out and enjoy as much of it as possible, especially when it quits raining! Working in Oslo has been an absolutely incredible experience, and I am so thankful for the G. Michael Dill Fund, NMBU, Dr. Crawford, and the entire Wabash community for helping to make this experience possible.