August 11, 2021

While many of her classmates returned home for the summer, Olivia Basile ’24 remained on campus to conduct research with the Department of Chemistry.

“This experience taught me more about what research is actually like in a job setting, as well as how to be more confident in my abilities as a learning scientist,” Basile said.

Basile worked with Geneive Henry, department chair and professor of chemistry, to synthesize a series of natural compounds with the goal of determining their anti-cancer potential by studying their effects on brine shrimp.

“Some of my compounds ended up having high anti-cancer properties,” Basile said. “It gave us insight into how these compounds would react in a real biological system with the presence of cancer cells.”

Henry acted as mentor to Basile through her 10-week research experience.

“Olivia started research in my group in fall 2020 as a first-year student and was exposed to a variety of techniques and instruments,” Henry said. “This summer, she gained additional experience with these techniques and instruments, as well as getting hands-on training on new pieces of equipment including a microplate reader, a cell imaging microscope and spectrometers.”

It was this experience that was the most valuable to Basile, she said, but also the most intimidating.

“I’d say one of the biggest personal challenges I faced was with confidence. I saw a lot of new things this summer, whether it was an academic concept, a common lab technique or how to work a multi-thousand-dollar instrument,” she said. “With all these factors coming into play, it was difficult to recognize my own abilities. But as the summer progressed, I learned more and became more comfortable with what I was doing.”

Basile gave an oral presentation on her work at the Landmark Summer Symposium and will be a co-author on a poster presentation at the spring 2022 American Chemical Society National meeting, to be held in San Diego. Further antioxidant and DNA cleavage experiments will be conducted in the fall 2021 semester, and a manuscript describing the results is expected to be submitted by the end of the spring 2022 semester, with Basile as a first author.

“My research projects are interdisciplinary in nature, and each student gains hands-on training in organic synthetic techniques, as well as one or more biological assays,” Henry said. “The result is that students develop a broad set of transferable skills, which will be beneficial to them whether they choose to go to graduate school, professional school or enter the work force after graduation.”