Payton Dupuis’s curiosity in biology analysis started the place it does for a lot of future scientists — witnessing a relative battling an incurable medical situation. For Dupuis, that member of the family was her uncle, who suffered from issues from diabetes. Dupuis, a senior at Montana State College, says that diabetes is distinguished on the Flathead Reservation in Montana, the place she grew up, and witnessing the impacts of the illness impressed her to pursue a profession in scientific analysis. Since then, that zeal has taken Dupuis across the nation to take part in varied summer season analysis packages within the biomedical sciences.
Most not too long ago, she was a participant within the Bernard S. and Sophie G. Gould MIT Summer season Analysis Program in Biology (BSG-MSRP-Bio). This system, supplied by the departments of Biology and Mind and Cognitive Sciences, is designed to encourage college students from underrepresented teams to attend graduate college and pursue careers in science analysis. Greater than 85 p.c of individuals have subsequently enrolled in extremely ranked graduate packages, a lot of them returning to MIT, simply as Dupuis is contemplating.
Her journey from witnessing the impacts of her uncle’s diabetes to contemplating graduate college at MIT was made potential solely by Dupuis’s love of science and her capacity to “discover a optimistic,” as she says, in each expertise.
As a high-schooler, Dupuis made her first journey to the Northeast, taking part within the Summer season Academy of Math and Sciences at Carnegie Mellon College. For Dupuis, who hadn’t even taken calculus but, the expertise was a welcome problem. “That positively made me work laborious,” she laughs, evaluating herself to different program individuals. “However I proved to myself, not for anybody else, that I belonged in that program.”
Along with being a confidence booster, the Carnegie Mellon program additionally gave Dupuis her first style of scientific analysis working in a biomedical lab on tissue regeneration. She was excited concerning the potentialities of rising new organs — such because the insulin-producing pancreas that would assist regulate her uncle’s diabetes — exterior of the physique. Dupuis was formally hooked on biology.
Her expertise that summer season inspired Dupuis to main in chemical engineering, seeing it as pipeline into biomedical analysis. Sadly, the chemical engineering curriculum at Montana State wasn’t what she anticipated, focusing much less on the human physique and extra on the oil trade. In that context, her capacity to see a silver lining served Dupuis nicely.
“That wasn’t actually what I needed, but it surely was nonetheless attention-grabbing as a result of there have been ways in which I might apply it to the physique,” she explains. “Like fluid mechanics — as a substitute of water flowing via a pipe, I used to be fascinated about blood flowing via veins.”
Dupuis provides that the chemical engineering program additionally gave her problem-solving abilities which were helpful as she’s undertaken biology-focused summer season packages to assist refine her pursuits. One summer season, she labored within the chemistry division at Montana State, getting hands-on expertise in a moist lab. “I didn’t actually know any of the chemistry behind what I used to be doing,” she admits, “however I fell in love with it.” One other summer season, she participated within the Tufts Constructing Variety in Biomedical Sciences program, exploring the genetic facet of analysis via a venture on bone growth in mice.
In 2020, a mentor on the native tribal school linked Dupuis with Keith Henry, an affiliate professor of biomedical sciences on the College of North Dakota. With Henry, Dupuis seemed for brand new binding websites for the neurotransmitter serotonin that would assist decrease the uncomfortable side effects that include long-term use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most typical class of antidepressants. That summer season was Dupuis’s first publicity to mind analysis, and her first expertise modeling organic processes with computer systems. She liked it. In truth, as quickly as she returned to Montana State, Dupuis enrolled as a pc science minor.
Due to the minor, Dupuis wants an additional yr to graduate, which left her yet one more summer season for a analysis program. Her older sister had beforehand participated within the common MSRP program at MIT, so it was a no brainer for Dupuis to use for the biology-specific program.
This summer season, Dupuis was positioned within the lab of Troy Littleton, the Menicon Professor in Neuroscience at The Picower Institute for Studying and Reminiscence. “I positively fell in love with the lab,” she says. With Littleton, Dupuis accomplished a venture complexin, a protein that may each inhibit and facilitate the discharge of neurotransmitters like serotonin. It’s additionally important for the fusion of synaptic vesicles, the elements of neurons that retailer and launch neurotransmitters.
Plenty of human neurological ailments have been linked to a deficiency in complexin, though Dupuis says that scientists are nonetheless determining what the protein does and the way it works.
To that finish, Dupuis targeted this summer season on fruit flies, which have two several types of complexin — people, as compared, have 4. Utilizing gene enhancing, she designed an experiment evaluating fruit flies possessing varied quantities of various subtypes of the protein. There was the optimistic management group, which was untouched; the adverse management group that had no complexin; and two experimental teams, every with one of many subtypes eliminated. Utilizing fluorescent staining, Dupuis in contrast how neurons lit up in every group of flies, illuminating how altering the quantity of complexin modified how the flies launched neurotransmitters and fashioned new synaptic connections.
After pertaining to so many alternative areas of organic analysis via summer season packages, Dupuis says that researching neuronal exercise in fruit flies this summer season was the proper match intellectually, and a formative expertise as a researcher.
“I’ve positively discovered learn how to take an experiment and make it my very own and work out what works finest for me, however nonetheless produces the outcomes we want,” she says.
As for what’s subsequent, Dupuis says her expertise at MIT has bought her on pursuing graduate work in mind sciences. “Boston is basically the place I need to be and finally work, with all of the biotech and biopharma corporations round,” she says. One of many perks of the MSRP-Bio program is skilled growth alternatives. Although Dupuis had at all times been involved in trade, she says she appreciated attending profession panels this summer season that demystified what that profession path actually seems like and what it takes to get there.
Maybe crucial facet of this system for Dupuis, although, was the arrogance it offered as she continues to navigate the world of biomedical analysis. She intends to take that again together with her to Montana State to encourage classmates to hunt out comparable summer season alternatives.
“There’s so many individuals that I do know can be an amazing researcher and love science, however they only don’t both find out about it or assume they will get it,” she says. “All I’d say is, you simply bought to use. You simply need to put your self on the market.”