"I find it really interesting to learn about how cells work and how they make life."
An interview with Amanda Rueles (MCB, Biochemistry Minor 2021), Fall 2019 Danny Brower Scholarship winner.
How did you feel when you found out you won the Danny Brower scholarship?
I was so excited and so happy that I was able to get an MCB scholarship; it's an honor! Paying for college is really hard and it's going to be such a big help and stress reliever. I also have a Wildcat Excellence Award and I have worked in a lab since my freshmen year to help pay for college.
Tell me about working in Dr. Anderson's lab.
I went to Sunnyside High School in Tucson and was enrolled in the BIOTECH Project both my junior and senior years. I was also in the KEYS Research Internship Program and through the BIOTECH Project and KEYS, I met Dr. Nadja Anderson. I kept crossing paths with her through these programs! The summer before my freshmen year, I worked the KEYS program and after that program Dr. Anderson asked me to work in her lab, so I started working in her lab my freshmen year and I worked in her lab for two years.
What did you do in Dr. Anderson's lab?
I prepped the lab experiments that went out to the high schools for the BIOTECH Project. I had to make sure all the reagents were right and everything they needed to do the experiment was included. I also helped with some MCB outreach events. I liked seeing how excited the younger kids were about science. I loved hearing them say "I love science!"
Then you were accepted into The Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP) - tell me about that.
When I first applied to UBRP, I didn't get accepted, and then I got the Margaret Bilson Research Fellowship Award and was able to be a part of UBRP. UBRP assigned me to Dr. Curtis Thorne's lab and I worked there all summer. Dr. Thorne's lab is a cancer research lab and he does colorectal cancer research. My project focuses on using molecular cloning to analyze cellular division. A common hallmark of cancer is excessive cell division. Proteins that are involved in cell communication and signaling, one class being called a kinases, can often tell cells to divide when they really should not or vice versa. I am using the process of molecular cloning and CRISPR/CAS9 to insert parts of genes that encode for kinases whose inferred normal function is to suppress cellular division. With the help of CRISPR/CAS9 (a protein complex that can remove, add or alter sections of DNA), I am going to knockdown kinases in normal human colonic epithelial cells to analyze if not having this kinase expressed induces, suppresses, or has no effect on cellular division.
Why did you choose The University of Arizona?
I had a lot of connections and had credits from when I was in the BIOTECH Project. I went to Meet MCB and saw there was a lot of research going on at the University of Arizona and I knew the university would give me a lot of opportunities in science.
Why did you choose MCB as your major?
Since I was in the BIOTECH Project at Sunnyside High School and had dual enrollment with MCB at the university, I wanted to continue with MCB. I really like studying cells and I wanted to see where MCB would take me. After I took more MCB courses, it solidified my decision. It's really cool to learn about cells. Cells look out for me and I don’t even have to ask them to; it just happens and I find it really interesting to learn about how cells work and how they make life!
What has been your best experience at UA?
So far my best experience has been working with Dr. Anderson in the BIOTECH Project because I got a lot of exposure to outreach to the community about science. I learned how important it is to communicate science and engage with a younger generation so they can enjoy science and not be scared of it.
What MCB classes have you like most and why?
Cancer Biology with Dr. Justina McEvoy has been the best class I've ever taken! I find myself doing more research outside of class because it's so interesting.
What skill have you learned that you think will be most useful when you graduate?
I learned a lot about how to look at different points of view and I think that is really useful. I think looking at different sides of things to get the whole picture instead of cherry picking information that fit my point of view is important and I think this skill will be useful in the future by helping me make decisions. In the SORT (STEM Outreach and Recruitment Team) class taught by Dr. Lisa Rezende, we read a book about pseudo-science. Every week we would have a conversation in class about different points of view and where we get information to form our point of view. I learned that the average person won’t read a scientific journal publication and I learned how and where people get information to make decisions.
What are your plans post-graduation?
I'm not entirely certain yet! I may enter the workforce to gain experience in another kind of research so I have some exposure outside of cancer research to see what kind of research I would be interested in as a career. I hope one day to get a PhD and I want to get experience outside of cancer research so I can decide what to focus on for my PhD.
What are your hobbies and interests outside school?
I'm really into fashion. I go to thrift stores and buy clothes and redesign and upcycle the clothes. My favorite one I upcycled was a really long dress that looked like a grandma dress and I made it into a cute summer skirt and top. I love the balance of this creative work with my love of science!