Research Highlight: Hannah Petty

by arowsey on April 12, 2021

I had the opportunity to speak with Hannah Petty concerning her research experience with Dr. Lassiter on examining the effects spironolactone has on the embryological development of zebrafish.

Can you describe what your research project is about?

For my research project, I look at the effects spironolactone has on the embryological development of zebrafish.  I use three different concentrations as well as a control to test what effects the chemical has on the heart rate, heart area (atrium & ventricle separately), blood vessel diameter, mortality (over 7 days), eye width, eye length, interocular distance, and head length of the fish.

What made you decide to pursue your topic?

When I was a freshman, I was new to Dr. Lassiter’s lab; therefore, I was pretty unaware of protocols and things of that nature.  One of the seniors at the time, Erin Kosmowski, was working on her senior project and needed help.  She taught me the necessary techniques to measure the effects of the chemical.  After she graduated, I continued with the project in an effort to have enough data to eventually publish.

Why did you decide to do research?

I am hoping to attend medical school after completing my undergraduate degree.  With that, I knew I needed to involve myself with every opportunity available.  When I was researching those opportunities offered at RC, I found information on “Research Fellows.”  I was really excited about the opportunity to conduct research for both course credit and pay in addition to the experience I would have gained after four years of undergraduate research.  So, between those three aforementioned benefits, I felt doing research would really help me on both an undergraduate and potentially graduate level.

How has your experience with your research advisor been?

My research experience with my advisor has been absolutely phenomenal.  Dr. Lassiter is an easy person with which to both work and talk.  Additionally, he is the king of spreadsheets and is more organized than you could ever imagine.  I am also a member of the swim team, so my research productivity during the season is very different than pre or post season; thankfully, Dr. Lassiter, is extremely tolerant of my weird schedule which makes it significantly easier to work in his lab.

What has been your favorite or most interesting part of your research project so far?

My favorite part of research thus far has been using the fluorescent scope underneath Massengill.  A couple of the lines of zebrafish we have are genetically modified to have parts of them glow under certain light.  For example, we have a line of fish who’s hearts glow green; we have a line of fish who’s jaws glow green; and we have a line of fish who’s blood vessels glow red underneath the fluorescent scope.  These fish, to the naked eye, appear to be perfectly normal; however, when they are put under the fluorescent scope, they are clearly unique.  I absolutely love watching their hearts beat and being able to differentiate between the atrium and the ventricle—I think it is so cool!

What would you say to current and incoming students interested in doing research?

If you’re an incoming freshman, do everything you can to involve yourself in what you love.  I have always had a passion for science, so I wanted to do research in the biology field.  It seems a little scary when the upperclassman are discussing some of the more advanced protocols, but I promise it is not as intimidating as it seems.  For both freshman and current students interested in research, don’t be afraid of scheduling conflicts!  My schedule has been extremely difficult to work with and around due to my athletic commitment, but professors are really understanding of students who want to really explore the opportunities RC has to offer.  Dr. Lassiter, for example, is both my research and academic advisor, so he deals with me all the time and knows the complexity of my schedule; however, he has never discouraged me from pursuing opportunities that interest me.  The encouragement provided by the faculty make everything ten times easier, as they want you to succeed just as badly as you do!  Also, as a last tip, always ask questions!  No one will judge you; the majority of the time, someone has the exact same question you do!

Previous post:

Next post: