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Amelia Ahern-Rindell

Associate Professor of BiologyAmelia Ahern-Rindell

“As a geneticist and cell biologist, I get to explore some of the ‘why’ questions of life, which have always fascinated me. I wanted to become a doctor from an early age but as an undergraduate biology major I changed my direction. I realized research-focused institutions were more likely to find cures to genetic disorders and suffering than practicing physicians.

Since graduate school, I’ve been working on a disorder named GM1 Gangliosidosis—it’s an inherited disease that progressively destroys nerve cells. For 20 years now, UP student researchers have helped me understand a variant of GM1 at the molecular level using sheep cells. My student researchers and I found a sequence difference in the affected sheep’s DNA that we think is responsible for the disorder in this sheep model.

In summer 2016 I traveled to Majorca, Spain, with four research students to take part in archaeological digs at an ancient Roman necropolis. My students, including Kai Seely ’17 and Raluca Gosman ’18, plan to use a method called Y-STR Analysis to examine ancient DNA from unearthed human remains. The hope is to trace the male lineage and determine their geographic origin, which could help answer multi-disciplinary questions about the ancient populations that once lived on the island.

Participating in research allows students to experience the excitement of finding out something that no one else knows. It plays into a very active learning format I use in my classes, along with case studies, solving quantitative problems, and more. My goal is to foster engagement and keep their curiosity about biology alive. No one wants to memorize a bunch of facts—I want to help students learn how to discover new knowledge on their own, so in the long run they can contribute to helping life work better.”

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