Stipp Lab Research

Meet an Undergrad in the Lab: Sarah Mullen

Research Description:

Dr. Stipp’s lab is located on the west side of campus. This location has allowed Dr. Stipp to collaborate with colleagues in different departments. He is looking for dedicated, passionate undergraduates interested in cancer research to work in his lab. Currently, undergraduates work on a collaborative project, and they have individual projects that feed into the main research questions of the lab. A lab technician works in the lab to run independent experiments, help students with their experiments, and keep the lab running smoothly.

When did Sarah start in the lab?

I have been part of the lab since fall of 2016, but I'm taking spring of 2018 off to focus on the MCAT and summer of 2018 to work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Pediatric Oncology Program in Memphis, TN.



Background before Sarah started working in the lab:

"The summer before I applied to work in the Stipp Lab, I was a research assistant in the developmental neuroscience lab of Laura Bruce, PhD, at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

Why Sarah chose this lab?

"I was interested in getting involved in cancer research and reached out to my biology TA and the chair of the biochemistry department for advice. Both advised me to contact Dr. Stipp."

What has Sarah done in the lab?

"My main research focuses on BRAF mutant melanoma. Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, or pigment making cells, in the skin, and about 50% of melanomas have been found to carry a mutation in BRAF. The current problem in melanoma treatment is that the cells quickly become resistant to the two drugs used to treat the cancer. To combat this, I am researching an alternative pathway “turned on” by melanoma with the aim to find a better treatment target.

I can tackle this problem from a genetic engineering standpoint by creating a new cell line knockout of a gene we want to study. By counting the number of cells every few days and creating a population doubling over time, I can monitor how the knockdown of a gene would affect the growth of cells under different drug conditions or in standard media. If the cells fail to survive, then we know this gene is important in creating the cancerous phenotype and further biochemical tests are run to understand the gene’s contribution to the cancer.

What Sarah wants to do in the future:

"I plan to go to medical school."

What Sarah wishes she knew before starting in a lab:

"The profound impact of having a mentor to help you with every aspect of life. I have found that I can talk to Dr. Stipp whenever I have trouble understanding concepts in my other science courses or need advice for my future professional career."