A sticky situation: Senior biology major studies blood for honors project

Things are getting a little bloody over in Reed. But don’t worry—it’s in pursuit of science.

Senior biology major, Brian Ginn, is pricking fingers, smearing blood, and analyzing DNA, with the goal of creating a new method for undergraduate students to study blood types.

“The end goal of the research is to have a protocol that goes from cheek cells to [DNA] for undergraduate labs,” said Brian, his passion for science evident as he started drawing blood cells on the white board.

GG-blood

Brian Ginn tests blood type. Clumping indicates a positive result.

The beginnings of the project started two years ago, when Brian began his capstone honors project. He went through five different project ideas before settling on this one, using cheek cells to determine someone’s blood type.

Blood type is usually determined with a finger prick test. The finger is poked with a small needle, and blood from the prick is smeared on three separate plates. A different type of serum is added to each plate. How the serum reacts with each blood sample shows blood type: A-, A+, B-, B+, AB, or O.

This is where Brian’s testing gets complicated. He doesn’t want to just know the blood type, but the DNA behind it. This means another test, requiring gels, electromagnetic waves, and ultraviolent light.

But Brian’s goal is to bypass all that, doing the same test, but much less painfully. Cheek cell testing just requires rinsing the mouth and spitting into a cup—good news for biology students who may not want their finger pricked.

“The goal is to get the students learn,” Brian said.

Creating a new experiment method, though, can get challenging.

“You’re often going to do the test and not get the results you want…. Doing something that’s not been done before, you have to start with what you think will work, and go from there.”

And although Brian has a newfound respect for research, this project has solidified his dreams of being a doctor, possibly on the mission field. In the past few years, Brian has been to Papua New Guinea with medical work teams twice. On the last trip, he worked the entire summer in a mission hospital.

“[This project] tells me I don’t want to be a researcher full time. I’d rather interact with people.”

 

A dream still years of medical school away, but today Brian Ginn contents himself with pricking fingers, smearing blood, and hopefully, helping some squeamish biology students in the process.

Attached is the TV and radio version I wrote of this story: GG-blood

Here is a link to the story that was published in my school newspaper and on the Olivet website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s