Wallace State graduate creates 3-D models of cancer-related proteins

An unexpected research opportunity in community college last year led recent Wallace State graduate David Hinds to HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology for a summer internship, and the work he completed at HudsonAlpha is contributing to ongoing cancer genetics research.

While at HudsonAlpha, Hinds worked with Jeremy Prokop, PhD, a senior scientist in the Jacob Lab, contributing to studies funded by the National Institutes of Health as part of the Big Data to Knowledge initiative. For the project, Hinds looked at genes with high rates of genetic variation in 22 different types of cancer and made a three-dimensional digital model of the full protein structure. Then he used advanced simulations to decipher how each cancer variant alters a protein’s structure and biological function.

“I have come out of this internship with great appreciation for bioinformatics,” Hinds said, “and I’m excited about the future of science now that we can harness the power of computing to aid us in our studies.”

Hinds was selected for the competitive internship out of hundreds of applicants and joined 29 interns attending schools across the country for the 2017 HudsonAlpha BioTrain internship program. “I’m one of the lucky ones who got the chance to learn more at HudsonAlpha this summer, and I’m grateful to Wallace State for allowing me to get involved with research. Not many community colleges present the research opportunities I’ve had.”

The HudsonAlpha BioTrain internship program offers students the opportunity to connect classwork with real‐world job experience and gain skills and knowledge that will prepare them for careers in biotechnology and related fields. Hinds’s internship continued research work he participated in at Wallace State through the Bioinformatics Research Opportunities Club.

Through the club, HudsonAlpha researcher Prokop is teaching students how to use computer programs to analyze changes in genetic variants to predict how those changes alter protein structures and affect cellular biology and disease. Hinds was among the first Wallace State students to take advantage of the opportunity, and he was able to bring what he had already learned to his HudsonAlpha internship this summer.

“When I started the internship, I was excited to learn about the advances HudsonAlpha hopes to make in genomic medicine,” Hinds said, “including taking variants in your DNA and applying it to the real world or predicting and personalizing medicines in the future.”

Prokop has been impressed with Hinds’s research in the bioinformatics club and during the summer internship. “Working with David over the past year, I have seen his continual growth and excitement to perform research,” Prokop said. “The BioTrain program exposed him to a summer of dedicated research, where he generated very high quality data that contributes to our knowledge of cancer genetics.”

Hinds is attending the University of Alabama in Huntsville this fall, where he is majoring in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry. “The knowledge that I gained from being around the brilliant scientists at HudsonAlpha will give me a great foundation of knowledge as I begin my upper-level classes and move onto graduate school in the future,” he said.

While he is at UAH, Hinds will continue working with Prokop at HudsonAlpha. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with David while he attends class at UAH,” Prokop said, “and we’re excited to see how these research opportunities propel him forward as he pursues a science major and considers graduate school.”

Since 2009, more than 259 students from 60 schools in seven states have completed the HudsonAlpha BioTrain internship program, which is open to high school graduates who are enrolled in a college in the state of Alabama or are a resident of the state of Alabama enrolled in a college in a different state. Next year’s applications will open in January. Visit hudsonalpha.org/biotrain for more information and to find out how to apply.

Wallace State’s Bioinformatics Research Opportunities club meets on Wednesdays during the fall and spring semesters. The group is open to Wallace State students of all majors and interests. For more information about the club, contact Connie Briehn at connie.briehn@wallacestate.edu.

For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.

 

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Award Number K01ES025435. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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