The Charger Blog

‘The SURF Program has Given Me a Great Opportunity to Explore a New Branch of Research’

As a member of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, I am conducting important research on variants of COVID-19, and I hope our work will help researchers understand how these variants could impact the pandemic.

July 26, 2021

By Katherine Duseau ’23

Katherine Duseau ’23
Katherine Duseau ’23, a genetics and biotechnology major.

As a rising junior and a member of the University’s Honors program, I have been looking for research opportunities in order to expand my network and broaden my skillset. I am a genetics and biotechnology major, although I still don’t know what area I would like to focus my career, as I have so many interests, it’s hard to know what to do.

The SURF program has given me a great opportunity to explore a new branch of research that I haven’t been exposed to before. My project is focused on genetic analysis of variants of COVID-19, and it is heavily involved in bioinformatics. Working on this project has provided me a unique experience to explore the mutations and evolution of a virus that has high visibility in the world today.

As an undergraduate student with no previous research experience, I have become hyper aware of all the things I don’t know. It has been really intimidating to begin this project. However, after working with my mentor, Dr. Ali Senejani, I have learned so much more that I thought.

Dr. Senejani has helped me learn to work with new programs and databases, as well as build essential knowledge in the significance of genetic conservation and mutation. Asking questions and reevaluating my approach to this project has helped it evolve.

One skill that I have been improving before and during this project is reading comprehension, and my previous exposure to scientific work has helped me better evaluate and understand the current research on COVID-19. Also, I have been able to make informed decisions and comparisons about the research I am conducting now to current publications on a similar topic.

My research, so far, has been focused on identifying mutations of significance that would affect the presentation of the spike gene, and exploring their prevalence across variants. As the summer progresses, I will focus on specific mutations within the Delta variant in order to identify new trends.

I have been working with the Snap Gene program to align and annotate sequences collected from the GenBank database, and to compare possibly significant mutations with newly published work. I feel confident that we will complete this work and that it will have an impact on understanding how these variants could trend and affect the current pandemic.

Katherine Duseau ’23, a genetics and biotechnology major at the University of New Haven, is working under the mentorship of Ali Senejani, Ph.D.