Christopher Lafen ’17

Major: Biology
Brown University Department of Molecular Biology
Award: Balfour Scholar

Pursuing an opportunity: “I wanted to work in a research lab, so I decided to email some biology professors at Brown University because it’s close to where I live. Fortunately, I got a response from researchers from the Jogl Lab, who are doing very interesting work on crystallizing ribosomes.”

Researching antibiotic resistance: “The purpose of crystallizing ribosomes is so we can study how bacterial ribosomes mutate to become resistant to antibiotics. The X-ray crystallization we perform allows us to see the shape and orientation of the ribosomes after their bacteria have been grown in antibiotics. In my position, I helped grow the bacterial cells to harvest ribosomes, and then extracted and purified the ribosomes. I also worked to prepare crystallization trays of ribosomes, after which I flash-freeze the ribosome crystals so they can be screened with an X-ray diffraction machine.”

Confidence building: “My internship has helped me feel more confident in working with various pieces of laboratory equipment. One of my favorite moments was when my supervisor asked me to investigate the use of MicroBatch crystallization as a viable technique in our lab, and I successfully produced dozens of crystals with the technique.”

Learning by doing: “Twice when I was asked to figure out how to work certain pieces of equipment, I had to search for the manuals and also find missing pieces for the instruments. Eventually, I figured out how to program them and make them functional for use in the lab.”

Coursework into practice: “Wheaton courses ‘Cell Biology’ and ‘Organic Chemistry’ introduced me to techniques and concepts that came up during my internship. I first brought crystals out of solution in ‘Organic Chemistry.’ In ‘Cell Biology’ I learned about ribosomes and their component parts.”

The awe of biology: “I’m majoring in biology because I’ve always been interested in the study of life itself, along with how we function on the microscopic level. Even as I continue learning more about biology, I continue to discover aspects about life and the human body that amaze me.”

A career in research: “I would like to work in a biology research environment of some sort, either in a private research lab or with a college or university. This internship gave me a very good idea of what it’s like to work in a research lab within a university.”

More summer internships

Wheaton students gain essential career skills at sites throughout the country and around the world with support from internship funding. These opportunities are part of the college’s commitment to experiential learning formalized through the Wheaton Edge. Return to main page