Published December 11, 2018
UB undergraduate Syed Adnan Uddin did not have much success when he began an internship last summer at the Noble Research Institute, an agency conducting agricultural research in Ardmore, Oklahoma. But patience and persistence led him to complete his assigned task — and in the process earn a prestigious student research award.
Currently a junior in UB’s biotechnology program, Uddin was tasked with cutting median sections of a mutant root and its wild type. With these sections, a mutant root’s cells could be analyzed under a microscope to determine the genetic cause of the root’s length.
But Uddin faced a huge challenge: There was no established working method to cut the median sections as thin as 50 micrometers. So he had to develop his own.
“I sectioned more than 200 samples in two weeks and they all were failures,” Uddin recalls. “Each failure taught me how the sectioning machine behaved, how to handle the sample better, and how to mount the sample in a better way without damaging it.
“Every failure showed me the weakness in my technique. [I was given] complete freedom to think out of the box and to manipulate the methods they had tried before.”
Uddin saw positive results in the third week when he created his first perfect median section. Soon, he was using the technique he developed to make perfect sections every day. He was then trained by staff in Noble’s microscope department to use a million-dollar confocal microscope to analyze the mutant root’s length in respect to its genetics.
“The people at Noble Research Institute were great,” Uddin says. “The working atmosphere at the institute was perfect and I would love to spend another summer there.
“I had a lot of fun during my internship,” he adds. “We spent a day exploring Oklahoma City and attended baseball games. I visited Dallas quite a few times, and every Friday all the interns were taken to different restaurants for lunch.”
With his work at Noble completed — and in possession of newly earned college credit — Uddin put together a research poster on his work at Noble and entered it in the poster competition at the annual Sigma Xi Student Research Conference, held Oct. 26-27 in Burlingame, California. Sigma Xi is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers.
Approximately 140 high school, undergraduate and graduate students submitted posters for the contest, and Uddin took the top spot in the Agricultural, Soil and Natural Resources category for the undergraduate division.
Uddin says the Noble internship experience has shown him that he’s more patient than he thought. He also says he’s ready to take the skills he’s learned and apply them to his undergraduate research at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“This award speaks extremely well of Syed and his mentors Chenglin Chai and Elison Blancaflor at the Nobel Institute,” says Kenneth Hoffmann, professor of neurosurgery and president of UB’s Sigma Xi chapter. “We are rightly proud of him.
“As a UB student he carries the UB flag,” Hoffmann notes, “but this award also presents clearly the importance and the benefits of off-campus internship experiences, which foster further growth in our students, preparing them for successful and rewarding careers.”