Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Jennifer Shields

Jennifer Shields ’12 has been offered a post-graduate job as a research assistant in the Division of Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass.

Finding the job: The Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services at Wheaton has been like a home family to me. I have worked in the center for the past three years, and I have formed great bonds with each member of the staff. Over this past winter break, as I was working in the office, [Filene Center director] Lisa Gavigan forwarded me an e-mail about the Division of Vaccine Research position. With significant guidance from the counselors in the Career Services office, I got an interview for the position–and finally I received the phone call with the official offer. Without the help from the nurturing staff , this position may not have been my future.

Rewarding experience: My first internship was as a dental research assistant at Tufts University. During this time, I identified a novel fin mutation in zebra fish (Danio rerio), a fish commonly used as a research model. During my research with the mutant, there was great speculation of how the disease may be related to a brittle bone syndrome in humans. I contributed research and submitted an abstract for publication and presentation at an annual American Association for Dental Research conference for a novel short-fin genetic mutation in Danio rerio. My second internship was as an intern at Tufts Medical Center, where I learned how to prepare tissue cell cultures, extract genomic DNA from tissue, and genotype mice for the presence of cancer cells.

Probing the genome: Through summer research positions and a genetic teaching assistant position here at Wheaton, I have become versed with the knowledge and background to perform a wide variety of laboratory techniques ranging from tissue culture to extracting and sequencing DNA. As a genetics teaching assistant for Professor Jennifer Lanni, I was able to instruct the class in performing polymerase chain reactions using PCR equipment, prepare agarose gel electrophoresis in order for students to genotype samples, and I acted as first line resource for students learning laboratory techniques.

A bright future: The  interconnectedness between research and medicine makes this position perfect for my future career goal of becoming a physician. Research is the foundation of medicine. When I began my undergraduate degree, I was convinced that I wanted to become a genetic counselor because I enjoyed investigating genetic diseases and solving puzzles of inheritance. As my coursework continued and my passion for medicine progressively developed, I realized that I not only was interested in collecting information and understanding genetic diseases, but I was motivated to find treatments.

Great achievements: I am a Wheaton Trustee Scholar, a member of the Tri-Beta Honors Society, and I have been on the Dean’s List every semester as Wheaton.

—Elizabeth Meyer ’14