Xander Utecht ’22.5

Swarthmore College, Department of Biology, Swarthmore, PA

This summer, I was fortunate to have the experience to work as a member of Professor DuBuc’s laboratory team at Swarthmore College. Dr. DuBuc is a biology professor, and he has a keen interest in stem cell research, especially in the Hydractinia system. Initially, the goal of the research was to examine male and female Hydractinia and their growth patterns of their feeding and sexual polyps in response to different environmental factors and genetic mutations. Unfortunately, due to Swarthmore Covid-19 policies, I was not able to work on campus this summer and working remotely limited my ability to be hands-on with the experiment and interact with Professor DuBuc as well as the other students working in the lab. My daily tasks included data and photo analysis, as well as pattern and growth recognition during the growth of these organisms. Using an image analysis software, I analyzed photos of the Hydractinia and their polyps, including measurement of the organisms and their polyps, the number of polyps, the clustering/spacing of the polyps, etc. I compared the patterns of growth between both the males and females, between the organisms grown vertically or horizontally, between organisms grown in turbulent conditions versus normal, and between organisms with different kinds of genetic mutations that had different impacts on sexual maturation and the growth of different polyps. Unfortunately, the results did not turn out the way Professor DuBuc and I expected. Growth patterns within the first few weeks for the majority of the organisms were standard, but after that growth unexpectedly stopped, and the majority of organisms had no significant polyp changes and had still yet to hit maturation. Therefore, there was not enough data from the summer to truly find growth patterns and draw conclusions. I am still very appreciative of the experience and all that I learned during this internship, both about Hydractinia and stem cell growth, as well as the overall process of coming up with research topics and setting up an experiment.

Going forward, I think this experience will provide me with a good research background and allow me to gain more research experience when I graduate. I would like to thank the Estate of James Kellogg and the ’68 Center for providing me with an opportunity to learn about an industry I wish to pursue.