Mary is a senior biology major who joined the lab in 2019 through a summer fellowship from the Vermont Genetics Network. She has continued to work in the lab this fall, focusing on using DNA barcoding to identify trematode species collected over the summer and also helping to develop new genetic markers (microsatellites) that would allow us to differentiate between different individual parasites of the same species. Mary is passionate about genetics and loves running PCRs (polymerase chain reactions, a lab technique used to make lots of copies of a gene you’re interested in) and gel electrophoresis (a lab technique that lets you ‘see’ and measure the size of DNA). She is also one of the only students I have ever met who actually likes writing tiny sample numbers on tubes the size of a pencil eraser (and she’s good at it!).
Mary was born in Uganda, but lived most of her life just outside Boston, MA. Unlike some Boston-raised students I’ve met, Mary was actually drawn to Norwich by the rural setting; she was ready to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of central Vermont far away from all of the loud Bostonians (though she’s still VERY loyal to the Boston sports teams!). Her urban upbringing did earn her a little good-natured teasing over the summer, especially when the lab group found out that she preferred Aunt Jemima to real maple syrup (a true blasphemy in Vermont!). We were forced to hold a maple syrup tasting to set her strait, although I think she still remains devoted to Aunt Jemima despite our best efforts. Mary also started off the summer a little squeamish about some of our pond critters- I still remember her sorting snails with tweezers the first week while the rest of us were grabbing snails by the handful- but she soon got over her reluctance and became an excellent snail handler. She even became enthusiastic about dissecting the snails to isolate the larval trematodes that live in their tissues.
Outside the lab, Mary loves the Patriots (Superbowl Sunday is serious business at Mary’s house!) and Harry Potter (we often heard some very interesting podcasts over the summer!), and has recently taken up oil painting along with Bob Ross (so calming!). This past March, she traveled to Puerto Rico with the Center for Civic Engagement where she helped clean up and repaint a school that was damaged by the hurricane. This was her first trip in an airplane and on a boat (for snorkeling!), and it made her want to travel more to see more of the world and volunteer. Mary is on track to graduate this spring and is hoping to find a job in genetics, perhaps using gene editing techniques like CRISPR/Cas9.