Sean at the US Naval Research Lab
Sean at the US Naval Research Lab

Navigating New Waters

Sean  Garin

Class of 2020 ? Fairfax, Virginia
Sean Garin ’20 is still considering what path his career will take, but two consecutive summer internships in the molecular biology division at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory give him a clear advantage, whether he finds himself doing biochemical research or pursuing a medical degree.

The internship, exclusive to Washington College students, is made possible by Professor of Chemistry Anne Marteel-Parrish, whose husband is a scientist at the Naval Research Lab.  Sean was matched with a principal investigator who is developing a novel approach that uses enzymes to break down biochemical agents like VX gas, the deadly poison classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.  Sean’s work in the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering Division focused specifically on developing an outer membrane vesicle that would contain and protect those enzymes in the environment.

The idea is that these proteins could be used prophylactically, in much the same way that a Kevlar vest prevents bullets from penetrating human tissue.

“It’s still in the pre-elementary stages of the process, but these proteins could be used to detoxify a region where chemical agents remain, or it could be applied to soldiers’ clothing so that the chemical is not absorbed internally,” Sean explains. “It hasn’t been done yet, but it’s pretty cool to be a part of it.”

Sean, a double major in biology and chemistry whose interest in Washington College was first piqued during a soccer tournament, appreciates the solid scientific training he received at WC.

“The best part about my research was the ability to use the lab work I did in class in a real, professional environment and recognize that my skills were beneficial to the scientific community,” he says. 

Sean is seeking funding to support his Senior Capstone Experience, which requires specific lab supplies and instrumentation for DNA purification, sequencing, and modification. Working in the lab of James Lipchock, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Sean is looking at a specific protein, Dot1, and the mechanisms that might be used to prevent cell growth. This process has applications related to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other age-related diseases.

Sean's Four Year Plan

Year 1

Most Influential ProfessorJames Lipchock

Sean came to WC intending to major strictly in biology, but James Lipchock, whose teaching and research take an interdisciplinary approach, was influential in his decision to add a second major in chemistry. Prof. Lipchock is now his faculty advisor.

Year 2

Learn By DoingU.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Sean began working on a project that, in the event of biochemical warfare, could potentially save thousands of lives.  Sean was matched with a principal investigator in the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering Division who is using enzymes to break down biochemical agents like VX gas, the deadly poison classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.  Sean’s work focused specifically on developing an outer membrane vesicle that would contain and protect those enzymes in the environment.

Year 3

Finding BalanceVarsity Soccer

 Sean’s mental intensity finds physical release on the soccer field, where he plays defense in one of the most competitive D-III conferences in the country. The Shoremen expect to close the 2019 season above .500.

Year 4

Looking Forward ToSenior Capstone Experience

 Sean will begin experimentation soon, looking at a specific protein—Dot1—and the mechanics of cell growth.  Working under the direction of Professors James Lipchock (chemistry) and Jennifer Wanat (biology), Sean will conduct DNA modification to determine how the protein could prevent cell growth. This process could ultimately be used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other age-related diseases.