Undergraduate Research

Paul Yan, Biological Sciences




“I’ve gained work experience in the lab that will make me a more marketable candidate when seeking a job in the future.”

"As a junior majoring in Biological Sciences, the experiences I’ve gained in Dr. Jessica Garb’s lab are invaluable. The project I am working on with a graduate student in the lab involves finding the DNA sequence of a specific type of spider silk protein. Spiders produce a variety of silk for different functions. Dragline silk is used for the spokes of a web and thus must be tough enough to hold up the entire web structure. A spider recently discovered in Madagascar, called Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini), spins large webs that span across small rivers. The toughness of the dragline silk in these webs is the highest measured to date for any spider and is ten times tougher than Kevlar. There are a wide variety of engineering applications for spider silk with such extreme toughness. We made a cDNA library of C. darwini’s major ampullate gland, the gland that produces dragline silk. My role in the project is to screen for large cDNAs via agarose gel electrophoresis, prepare the plasmid DNA containing the silk cDNA for sequencing, and analyze the resulting DNA sequences. The molecular biology techniques I’ve acquired in Dr. Garb’s lab have supplemented my core lab classes and vice versa. I’ve gained work experience in the lab that will make me a more marketable candidate when seeking a job in the future. The co-op was a great opportunity for me, and I am grateful I was able to do it in my undergraduate career."