Matt McKinney, Knox Class of 2013, is part of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gaz...
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2 East South Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
Major in Biochemistry, Minors in Chemistry and Anthropology & Sociology
Telling us two things to help us get to know you.
I have been running and competing in track and field for eight years now, and I hope to be the first in my family to graduate college.
Describe your internship.
My internship is called Gateways to the Laboratory and is at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, where I am a part of a fantastic cohort of students seeking to earn a MD/Ph.D. In essence, I am working on a computational biology project in the Mason Lab, which is a computational genetics lab.
I am looking at the DNA methylation patterns in different tissues in the human body and developing a program that will use this data to designate an age to the tissue sample. I hope to develop this program so it can analyze low-yield and degraded human tissue samples that are often found in crime scenes and in forensic science.
Do you do any other work at the lab?
In addition to my main project, I am conducting a wet lab project analyzing the methylation patterns of intestine samples that display Crohn's disease. I am also helping out my lab on their other projects, like the MetaSub project.
The MetaSub project is a worldwide project where people from around the world gather at their respective cities and swab the public transportation systems. I was part of the team in New York City that went throughout the entire subway system swabbing the kiosks, seats, and just about anything people touched on a regular basis. We do this to build a sense of what kind of microbiome we interact with on a daily basis and to build a worldwide metagenomic profile, like a "DNA map" of mass-transit systems.
What is life like for you outside of your lab work?
Outside of lab, I am shadowing doctors in the different areas of the hospital like cardiothoracic surgery, cath lab, and many more. I am also participating in a weekly journal club, where we take turns presenting scientific articles and then discuss them with current MD/Ph.D. students. We have various meetings as well, where we meet with the current MD/Ph.D students to receive mentorship and advice on what it is like to be a MD/Ph.D.
How are you feeling about your internship so far?
Overall, this opportunity has been amazing and a wonderful riveting experience where I have been able to translate my knowledge from the classroom into an actual lab setting. I have met incredible people who I have inspired me to go forward and I hope to work alongside them in the coming years as I strive to one day attain my MD/Ph.D.
What factors influenced your selection of this internship?
I initially chose this program based on my desire to do research related to my major, biochemistry; however, I think the classes that have most helped me succeed have been Organic Chemistry, Biology 210 Intro to Research, and the mentorship at the JUMP research center, my past summer internship. Also important is the ongoing support from faculty and TRIO. All of these factors encouraged me to apply to this program.
What is the most exciting thing you've learned from this internship so far?
I learned that failure is the main driver of success, and I am learning to be patient with failure while maintaining my motivation to keep on trying.
What about who you are now would surprise your high school friends?
I think the most surprising part about myself is that I am more driven than ever before and I am opening doors that I never knew existed. I think the clarity, the curiosity, and the hope I have now is what has changed within me the most.