Marissa Suchyta, HIP 2013
Harvard University, USA
Douglas Melton Lab, Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
Marissa was a freshman when she established Harvard’s largest salamander facility. Located in the Sherman Fairchild Laboratory basement behind rows of zebrafish tanks, the facility houses about 200 axolotls—Mexican salamanders that can regenerate almost any part of their bodies.
Now a senior, salamander regeneration has formed the foundation of Marissa’s thesis project. Her goal is to understand what allows an axolotl to initiate regeneration of a lost limb, for example, and to identify the factors that ensure the correct cell types are replaced.
“I think the opportunities are truly limitless here at Harvard,” she said. “I’m really able to delve into the science and explore an animal that not many people in the world work with.”
As a participant in the HSCI internship program, Marissa was able to pursue her research interests alongside others just as passionate about stem cell biology. In addition to collaborating with other interns, she was able to bounce her ideas off of Harvard postdoctoral fellows and scientists summering in the laboratory.
“The opportunity to interact with students from so many different background and hear their take on research has been incredible,” she said. “The daily interactions you have at the coffee machine may transform into new ideas for experiments.”
The structure and supportive atmosphere Marissa experienced during her summer at Harvard reaffirmed her desire to become a stem cell scientist. She hopes to enroll in an MD/PhD program within the next few years.
“I love scientific research and I can’t imagine a future without it,” she said.