Trading SPF for SP-10! Hampton resident attempts to Clone the SP-10 Gene

August 11, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
Ashland, VA – While most college students are spending their summer at the beach covered in SPF, Hampton resident Salem Shaffer is spending her summer in the lab. And she’s traded SPF for SP-10 (sperm protein 10), a gene found in many mammals that may be significant to the fertilization process. Shaffer is one of many student participating the 2005 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va.
The SP-10 gene is a testis-specific gene and there’s evidence to suggest that the protein it encodes may be involved in sperm-egg interactions during fertilization. The gene has been found in a variety of mammals including humans, baboons, foxes, monkeys, pigs and mice. It was first studied with the aim of being developed into a contraceptive vaccine, but scientists still don’t truly understand the function of the protein in any specific species.
Accordingly, this summer, Shaffer will attempt to clone the guinea pig SP-10 gene and then determine its significance in the fertilization process. To clone the gene, she first must isolate it from tens of thousands of other genes. This will allow her to determine its DNA sequence, which will provide a plethora of information about the gene, including its protein structure and function. Having this information is the first step in the process of learning how the SP-10 protein works in the guinea pig, and eventually perhaps in the human system. Ultimately, if SP-10 does have a significant role in sperm-egg interactions, it could lead to important developments in contraceptives.
“SURF is a great way to spend the summer,” said Shaffer, also a star on the college’s women’s basketball team. “I am working on a very interesting topic and one that not a lot is known about. I like the idea of researching something that not a lot of biologists have researched. It gives me the chance to discover something new. This will hopefully provide me with the opportunity to be published and also gain independence and knowledge by working in the lab.”
Shaffer, a rising junior, biology major at Randolph-Macon, Stewart and Jenny Shaffer of Hampton, Va.
To participate in SURF, Shaffer had to write a proposal and apply for grant money to fund her research. Additionally, she is earning a stipend and receiving room and board. Shaffer is one of 28 students conducting cutting-edge research this summer in more than 10 disciplines, including chemistry, biology, psychology, physics, education, philosophy, political science, drama, music and business.
"SURF gives undergraduates the rare opportunity to revel in the freedom and independence of research that usually leads to new discoveries,” said Serge Schreiner, chair of the chemistry department and co-director of the SURF program. “Students also have to deal with the challenges and difficulties of original research, which more often than not pay off in a new work ethic. In addition, SURF students have the opportunity to share their results with the Randolph-Macon community, as well as present their work in national and international forums. It’s an amazing opportunity for students at this level.”
The SURF program was established in 1995 by the Schapiro Research Program, an endowment fund that supports scholarly undergraduate research by Randolph-Macon College students in all disciplines. For more information, please contact Holly Clark at (804) 752-3712 or or Anne Marie Lauranzon at (804) 752-7317 or Photos also are available upon request.
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Founded in 1830, Randolph-Macon College is celebrating its 175th anniversary of providing excellence in undergraduate education. Located in historic Ashland just north of Richmond, Randolph-Macon College is a nationally ranked co-educational, liberal arts and sciences college with a mission of “developing the minds and character of its students.” The college achieves this mission through a combination of personal interaction and academic rigor. The student-faculty ratio is 11:1 and the average class size is 16 students. Enrollment is kept at approximately 1,150 to maintain this intimate atmosphere. Randolph-Macon College has an outstanding national reputation for its internships, science programs, study abroad and undergraduate research opportunities and offers a wealth of social and athletic programs to its students. Randolph-Macon College is the oldest United Methodist Church affiliated college in the nation, a Phi Beta Kappa college and is ranked as a Baccalaureate I college by the Carnegie Foundation and among the top 100 colleges in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.