Mariana Pereira Moraes is a Biology Major. This interview was taken during her junior year on the Rockland campus.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Brazil and my hometown is Sao Paulo. However, I grew up in Kolkata (India) most of my life.
What interested you about your major?
In my major, I get to study about how life exists and works. As a major, Biology is very diverse and it opens up many opportunities for me to study in almost any field in science.
Can you explain the SEA-PHAGES program?
The SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science) program is an undergraduate research course where students study new viruses known as bacteriophages in soil and water samples. The SEA-PHAGES is administered by the University of Pittsburgh and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Students get to name the phages they discover and throughout the course, we learn several microbiology techniques, genome annotations and bioinformatics analyses. The purpose of this program is to expand our knowledge of bacteriophages (bacteria-killing viruses), bacteria and to see how we can benefit from them. The greatest thing that this program gives is an opportunity for anyone to contribute real scientific data to a much larger purpose.
Why is it important for women to be a part of this program?
I think it’s very important for women to be part of the SEA-PHAGES program or because for many years, women have been denied or restricted in their access to education, especially in the scientific community. For women to be part of something as big as the SEA-PHAGES program is a great victory for all women.
What projects are you a part of?
I am currently studying bacteriophage ShayRa and my very own phage Nedayra.
What are some procedures you would be doing in the lab?
Some procedures that I do in the lab include PCR and DNA extraction. To extract DNA from my bacteriophage I place my liquid sample containing phage with chemicals that will break down the virus’s body and then I place my sample with an enzyme (a protein that digests mostly proteins) that breaks down the protein into smaller units. Once I have my DNA extract I mix this sample with specific enzymes and several chemicals so that I can amplify a specific region in my DNA, this technique where I make copies of a specific segment of DNA is known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). I can then analyze the DNA copies I made using another technique called Gel Electrophoresis, here I separate my DNA mixture according to their molecular size by placing it in a gel with pores that push them via electric current. Overall, I am trying to analyze a specific site in my bacteriophage and with these techniques; I am able to do so.
How does studying these types of subjects on a Christian campus affect your work?
I think that studying biology at a Christian campus gives me a Christian worldview on God. Scripture can be applied to my subject and it also builds a strong foundation in Biblical truth; preparing me for future careers.
What do you hope to achieve personally from SEA-PHAGES?
What I want to achieve from the SEA-PHAGES program, is to build a broader understanding of viruses and to be able to contribute data to the scientific community through my research in the lab.
What are your future career goals?
My career goal is to become a surgeon and a researcher in the field of virology (the study of viruses).