When Majors Collide

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CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: Biology, Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

Issa Ali ’15
Roseville, Minnesota
Computer Science

“The interdisciplinary collaboration between departments allows students like me to find new fields of study to explore.”

As a computer science major, for a long time I couldn’t imagine doing biology research. But I am pursuing minors in biology and chemistry, and all my Macalester courses have fostered the critical thinking and inquiry skills so valuable in research. Therefore, over the summer I ended up working on two biology projects alongside six other researchers and two professors. Our work was supported by the Young Researchers program, which is funded by a Science Education Program Award to Macalester College from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The first project, done with Professor Lin Aanonsen, focused on chronic pain and the role of the molecule PSA-NCAM in the transmission of pain at the spinal cord level. Thanks to previous studies done by our lab, we know that the formation of this molecule facilitates long-term changes in the spinal cord, as a result of persistent pain. The results of our study may help us improve therapies to treat and manage chronic pain.

The second project, done with Professor Paul Overvoorde, dealt with the role of the hormone Auxin in root formation of the Arabidopsis plant. Our research helps us understand the growth process of plants and may add considerably to our ability to enhance plant applications and uses.

It has been phenomenal to work on these two science projects. Through the experience I have gained a true appreciation for research. I am really surprised by the interdisciplinary collaborations among departments at Macalester. It allows students like me to bridge multiple disciplines and find new, interesting fields of study to explore.

PUBLISHED: 01/09/2014