Jake Norley ’16 Proteins, Protocols, and a Patent on Top

Blog Photo

Jake Norley taking samples in the laboratory.

I have spent the previous eight weeks of my final summer as an undergraduate student working with Kevin Meyer ’06 at Perfinity Biosciences alongside Connor Smith ’18. This company consisting of 4 employees has given us a great concept of what it is like to work for a small company and to run a business. At Perfinity, I have been working in the Research and Development department helping to develop new sample processing technologies for the diagnostics of proteins in a mass spectrometer which has become a pressing issue in the field given the rapid growth of mass spectrometry technologies in the past decade. The growth of this technology has outpaced the growth of sampling protocol technologies for this instrumentation. Due to the issue presented, Perfinity Biosciences has found its niche. Perfinity currently has a line of immobilized enzyme products that permit the scientist to prepare samples that initially took days to complete in just hours. This is significant in that the ability to assess proteins through mass spectrometry allows researchers to understand better proteins and disease. Connor and I have been working on a product that will optimize this process even further. However, we are in the process of submitting our findings as a provisional patent so I am unable to discuss specifics.

This internship could not have come to me at a better time. I have pulled knowledge from every chemistry course I have taken at Wabash and applied it to the job. We work heavily in proteomics that Biochemistry has prepared me well for. We use advanced instrumentation such as a liquid chromatography coupled with an ion trap MS-MS that Dr. Dallinger would have loved to have at Wabash but even with the lack of one present he taught me much about the differing instrumentations in the field as well as the importance of sample preparation. We use organic chemistry to modify and alter a variety of nitrogen groups. The whole internship has brought together every facet of chemistry I have learned and done so in a very interesting way.
Not only has this internship been academically thought provoking, but it will be very beneficial for my career as I move on from Wabash. As I stated earlier, we are currently working on a provisional patent for the work that we have been doing over the course of the internship. This means that I will have my name on an actual patent for intellectual property that is relevant in the currently booming field of biotechnology. This will be something that I can put on a resume that employers or graduate school admissions offices will look at when considering applicants and it will help me stand out in a strong pool of undergraduate candidates for a position. This patent directly pertains to a field that I would like to one day be a part of and having already done established work before graduating college greatly helps me to achieve this goal. This has all been possible through the Lilly Endowment Fund without which I would be unable to have this amazing opportunity. Lilly has helped me better myself and has given me the means to achieve my goals, and I would like to thank those in charge of the fund for that. I hope that this program continues to help undergraduates by presenting them with opportunities such as the one I have.

Korbin West ’16- Perfinity Biosciences

Korbin West ’16 –Since I started my internship, I’m quickly learning how little I really know about chemistry. And that is a fantastic feeling. While my internship is flying by, I’m trying to pick up as much as I can because there is no better learning environment than an immersive one. For the past month I’ve been working in Perfinity Biosciences, a small bioscience company in West Lafayette. Perfinity mainly focuses on proteomics, the study of proteins. Every person is made of tons and tons of proteins, just like the hemoglobin in our blood or the insulin in our pancreas. However, there is still so much the world doesn’t know about proteins, which is where Perfinity steps in.

Korbin West Summer Internship 2014

Without getting too technical, we find ways to break down and analyze these proteins so others can discover more information about them. Imagine you find a newspaper that has been crumpled up into a ball, this will be our example protein. To be able to read the paper (a.k.a. extract information from the protein), we have to find a way to un-crumple it without ruining it. In a way, this is what Perfinity does for other researchers/drug companies, so that they can find new ways to battle diseases and discover more secrets of the body.

As an intern, I spend a lot of my time helping out wherever I can. The majority of my time is spent in the lab, where I have various responsibilities. My daily activities range from making stock solutions for our spectroscopy equipment to validating old protocols to researching new ones. My time here has greatly helped me develop my chemistry skill set, as well as strengthening my abilities in many other aspects. Although some of my work is quite challenging, I’m continually learning from my co-workers how to approach these issues and I’m picking up plenty of new techniques and methods. However, just like any liberal arts experience, I’m learning much more than just the chemistry behind it. Whether it’s discussing the economics behind our product, presenting results at company meetings, or anything in-between, I’m constantly rounding out my experience.

The past couple weeks have been an absolutely incredible time for me. As I’m sure with many of my fellow classmates, I continually wonder if I’m going in the right field. I would ask myself “what if I can’t stand working in the lab all day?” or “what if I don’t have what it takes to make it?” Now, I’m happy to say that I don’t find myself asking these questions anymore. I’ve enjoyed every second of my time here at Perfinity and although I’m not nearly done with working to improve my skills and proficiency in chemistry, I feel confident in my decision to pursue chemistry.

I’d like to thank Wabash College and Lilly Endowment, Inc. for their wonderful support and making this opportunity available for me.

Jawed ’17 Hazardous Education

Bilal Jawed Summer Internship 2014 (Picture 1)

Jawed ’17 works in his MCHD issued HAZMAT suit

Bilal Jawed ‘ 17 – It’s hot in the Tyvek HAZMAT suit; because the gas mask I’m wearing is airtight, the usual ammonia odors of a methamphetamine-infected house don’t reach my nose. The bright yellow suit, neon green boots, and a double pair of purple gloves make me feel out of my element, but that’s expected interning with the Montgomery County Health Department.

My experiences interning with the MCHD can be summed up in one image: stepping into a shallow puddle only to find yourself drenched because that puddle was much, much, deeper than expected. I entered the internship with an elementary understanding of the role of the health department: checking restaurants here and there and possibly standing by in case of a health emergency. I quickly realized that the health department plays a much larger role in our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. Whether we are taking a swim at the local pool, enjoying a taco at Little Mexico, or simply relaxing on the back porch, the health department is hard at work in the shadows – testing pool and drinking water, inspecting food temperatures, or adulticiding mosquitoes while we sleep (just as a few examples).

One of the lesser-known duties of the MCHD is overseeing the septic systems in the county. Montgomery County has both dense urban and rural areas, making a countywide sewer system inefficient. The latter groups, including 12-14 thousand households, rely on septic systems. Septic tanks are essentially individual water sanitation systems for households not connected to the city line. Solid waste is separated from liquid waste, which is then filtered naturally through the soil. While this may appear simple, there is a long and strenuous list of regulations the department must oversee. While the average citizen “flushes and forgets,” they probably don’t appreciate the intricate processes, preventing dangerous human waste from harming our health. Worldwide, 40% of the population, practices open defecation which can lead to health risks such as diarrheal diseases, the sixth leading cause of death in low income countries.

As a summer intern one of my goals is to monitor vectors of Montgomery County such as mosquitoes, which spike in the hot and humid Crawfordsville summer. Vectors are any organisms that are possible carriers and transmitters of infectious diseases such as bats, rodents, and your favorite mosquitoes. The vector program has three main components: surveillance, adulticiding and larviciding. Every proper public health measure begins with assessing the situation. The health department accomplishes this by setting traps in possible mosquito environments with human activity. These environments include locations with untreated or standing water without fish, shaded areas, and areas with sewer odor such as the water treatment center. After locating these areas, the Health Department places simple traps with bait and a vacuum. The trapped mosquitoes are then recorded, classified, and sent off to the State Health Department to be tested for West Nile. Areas with high mosquito populations and areas testing positive for West Nile are indicators of where the next two components of the program will be deployed. Adulticides are aerosol sprays that kill adult mosquito organisms on contact. Larvicides on the other hand, attack mosquitoes at their larva or pupa state. Larvicide comes in a solid form, which is spread throughout standing water. The mosquito vector program is proactive, keeping track of mosquitoes and West Nile before it’s too late.

Bilal Jawed Summer Internship 2014 (Picture 2)

I would like to describe an average day in the health department, but there is no such thing. This internship has kept me on my toes because it is essentially not just a single internship, but a multitude crammed into one summer. Just a few of the experiences include: forming a vector control program, attending council meetings, educating the public through newspaper articles, probing for lice, inspecting septic systems, surveying meth-contaminated houses, water testing, analyzing data, county mapping, dipping for larvae, and the list grows with each day. I may not be an expert in any of these (at least not yet), but I have gained a greater understanding and appreciation of our health. I would like to thank Lilly Endowment, Inc. and Wabash College Career Services for this amazing opportunity.