Biology major Luke Kern graduated from Catholic University in May, but he’s back on campus this fall under a “4+1” program that allows him to complete his master’s degree with an additional year of classes.
If Kern took a break this summer before returning to campus, it would be understandable and well deserved. But he kept busy with an internship at a pharmaceutical company near his home in Rockland County, N.Y. He credits his research experience at Catholic University with helping him land the plum position.
“They asked me specifically about the things that I learned in lab, the different types of procedures and tools that I can use in a laboratory setting,” he says, “and I felt really confident because I had the experience of doing research at Catholic University for the past two years.”
“I never thought that I’d be doing hands-on laboratory work for research purposes. In a classroom setting, maybe, but the biology department really stressed these opportunities to do research in different labs.”
Working in the lab with Dr. Ann Corsi, Kern studied a protein associated with cranial facial disorders. Using a species of small flatworms known as C. elegans, Corsi and her student researchers are investigating how proteins interact and affect specific genes within an organism.
“The same mutation that makes the human disease, you can make in the worm,” Kern explains, “and then study it more easily because it’s right there at your disposal.”
It wasn’t the opportunity to do high-level research that initially attracted Kern to campus — it was football. Last year, in his fourth season on the varsity team, the defensive back averaged 6.3 solo tackles per game. Whether on the field or in the lab, he practices strict self-discipline.
“Football is what brought me here,” he says. “I always had a specific schedule, and my grades ended up being better in season than out. I never thought that I’d be doing hands-on laboratory work for research purposes. In a classroom setting, maybe, but the biology department really stressed these opportunities to do research in different labs.”