OUR Featured Researcher: Jen Crainic '20

Portrait of Jen Crainic
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Jen Crainic (she/her) is a Biology major doing research under the mentorship of Professor William Parsons, Professor Mary Garvin, and Dr. Jeff Gildersleeve at the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research. 

Describe your research: 

My projects at, and beyond, Oberlin center around biological research that is disease and
medically relevant. In the chemistry department, I do research with Professor Parsons on a
class of enzymes - serine hydrolases - that are implicated in disease. The small molecules we are studying can act as inhibitors against these enzymes and can be used to treat conditions such as type II diabetes and Parkinson's disease. In Professor Garvin's lab in the biology department, I study the prevelance of Lyme disease in northeast Ohio ticks. And finally, my research outside of Oberlin focuses on cancer research. At the National Cancer Institute I worked with Dr. Jeff Gildersleeve to identify antibodies that are able to bind to tumor-associated carbohydrates to monitor and treat cancer. After Oberlin, I will continue to persue cancer research as a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania Perlman School of Medicine.

Why is your research important? 

Translational research, or research that is medically relevant, is extremely important to address clinical needs. I am passionate about public health and research the prevelance of Lyme Disease, and am also interested in therapeutics for diseases such as cancer.

What does the process of doing your research look like?

My research has taken me into the field to collect ticks, but most days it takes place in the lab. Though science is collaborative, a lot of times I work independently before coming back together with results to the rest of the lab. I have also loved getting to mentor new students.

What are your findings so far? What knowledge has your research contributed to your field? 

I have found promising results in all of the projects I have been involved in. I interned at the biotech Biomeme over winter term of my sophomore year and this resulted in a commercially available product.

In what ways have you showcased your research?

I have presented my research at internal and external conferences. I have
presented posters at Oberlin College and the National Cancer Institute (NIH) and presentations at Oberlin College and the American Chemical Society. Last spring I also presented a poster at the Scientista Symposium which centers voices on women in STEM.

What is your favorite part of engaging in this work? 

I love getting to explore 'submarine' or small side projects. An example of this was getting to use my final project for a biology class to model my own research rather than the example given in the lab.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project?
How has it impacted you as a researcher?

My research mentors have mentored me in so much more than just research. My mentors have invited me to their houses, have advised me in courses, and supported me find opportunities for research outside of Oberlin.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic
development?

Getting to do research as an undergrad has prepared me for a career in scientific research. These experiences taught me how to be an independent - yet collaborative - scientist and have made me confident that I want to persue a PhD and a carrer in research.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in
your field?

Allow yourself to have interests and hobbies outside of your research! Although it is easy to get wrapped up and buried inside the lab, take time off and explore other things on campus. You are a student and your research mentors know this - play a sport, practice an instrument, cook a co-op meal! For example, I had the opportunity to combine my interests in science and art by learning how to blow scientific glassware!

Read about more of OUR featured researchers

Jen Crainic in a lab coat