Dr. Jennifer Mason 

Genetics and Biochemistry
College of Science

Area of Research:
Replication, DNA repair, and homologous recombination

051A Life Sciences Facility
Dr. Jennifer Mason

Proposed role for the Scholar as an undergraduate researcher in the Mentor's lab.
The Beckman Scholar that joins the Mason lab will be given an independent research project related to a major project in the lab. In our initial meeting, I will discuss 2-3 potential avenues of research to allow the Scholar to choose the project based on interest in the research area. Allowing the Scholar to pick a project results in a student who is excited and engaged from day one because they feel ownership over their project. The Beckman Scholar will be involved in all aspects of the project, similar to a graduate student in the laboratory. They will be required to read the literature, design experiments, analyze results, and interpret results. The projects in my lab utilize similar techniques and are related to other projects, allowing the Scholar the opportunity to mentor younger students in the lab and work together with senior members, including graduate students and postdocs, to troubleshoot technical problems and brainstorm ideas.

Frequency and nature of the planned interactions between the Scholar and Mentor.
A postdoctoral scholar or graduate student may be responsible for teaching day-to-day techniques, but I will directly supervise the progress of the Scholar in the lab and routinely perform hands-on training in experimental design and techniques. I will have one-on-one meetings with the Beckman Scholar every 1-2 weeks to discuss problems, results, and plans for the next set of experiments. The experimental plan will be developed by the Beckman Scholar with guidance from me. In addition, our lab has a weekly interactive meeting where all members, including undergraduates, are required to give updates on progress and present primary literature relating to their projects. Students are encouraged to ask questions, offer suggestions, and provide constructive feedback on all projects in the lab.

Specific plans the Mentor will employ.
1. Individualized mentoring plan. In our initial meeting, the Scholar and I will discuss career goals and define a set of skills that will be needed to succeed in that given career. We will utilize the Individual Development Plan (IDP) provided by the NIH to set a specific set of goals for not only research, but in identified areas of improvement. In addition, I will encourage the Scholar to attend professional workshops and seminars offered by the university on topics relevant to critical skills such as writing, teaching, and networking. At the beginning of each semester, we will revisit the IDP to determine if goals were met, career aspirations have shifted, and identify areas of continued improvement. 2. Development of Scientific Communication Skills. The ability to convey your ideas and results is of upmost importance for a successful career in STEM, and these skills can be transferred to fields outside of academia. The Beckman Scholar in my laboratory will develop both written and oral presentation skills. The Scholar will write scientific abstracts for meetings, prepare figures for publications, write up project results in preparation for publication, and give a formal presentation on their project every semester. The Scholar will present at local poster presentations and regional meetings such as the Association of Southeastern Biologists Annual Conference. I recently had three students present at Clemson Biological Sciences Annual Student Symposium and the Clemson Student Research Forum at Clemson University. Informal discussions about topics important for science. In my lab, we discuss topics on careers and research ethics. These topics include how I obtain funding, the process of publication, and the importance of talking to the public about science research. We also talk about data manipulation, the importance of good note keeping, what counts as fraudulent data, and the consequences of fraud. I believe open dialogue with students about research ethics and life as an academic scientist is important to develop young scientists.

Active undergraduate researchers in Mentor's lab. 4

Total number of UGRS mentored to date: 8

Homologous recombination (HR) is a pathway that uses an identical, intact copy to repair DNA double strand breaks preventing loss of genetic information. HR is commonly referred to as an error-free process. Emerging evidence suggests increased HR is also detrimental to cells resulting in genome rearrangements, chemo-resistance, and cancer predisposition. My lab aims to understand how mutations in genes that restrain HR prevent genome instability and cancer predisposition using human cell culture. Students will have the opportunity to learn a variety of molecular biology techniques such as PCR, DNA cloning, culturing human cell lines, and fluorescent microscopy.