I received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) in 2016 to work in Professor Chuck Walker’s cell biology lab, where I had been involved since 2014. I worked under the guidance of Dr. Walker and alongside other colleagues in the lab. My work during that time focused on culturing cancer cells and investigatingthe proteinp53 within them. The body aims toprevent tumors from forming by protecting the integrity of its cells’ DNA. The protein p53 is so vital in this role that it is often referred to as the “guardian of the genome.” In fact, more than half of all human cancers are associated with malfunctionsthat disrupt p53 function. My project had two objectives. First, I sought to confirm the presence of the p53-mortalin complex in the cells I was planning to use. Second, I tried to disrupt the complex using MKT-077 and withanone and determine the effectiveness of these agents in allowing p53 to move to the nucleus and trigger apoptosis. I planned to designate groups of cells as untreated, MKT-treated, or withanone-treated. For each group, I chose a series of analytical techniques that could pinpoint p53 inthe cell (to see whether it was stuck in the cytoplasm or already in the nucleus) and determine the levels of cell death by apoptosis. The various surprises I experienced while working on my SURF project taught me that research won’t always be as clear-cut as one might expect. I learned the importance of keeping an open mind and considering the possibility of obstacles and unexpected outcomes in order to make sense of conflicting results.

Publication Date

Spring 4-1-2017


UNH Undergraduate Research Journal

Journal Title

Inquiry Journal


Charles Walker


Durham, NH: Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, University of New Hampshire

Document Type