HRP SU23-17: Research Opportunity with Dr. Christopher Heinen

Project Mentor

Dr. Christopher Heinen
Department of Medicine, Center for Molecular Oncology

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Description

Project Description Our lab uses CRISPR gene editing to recreate patient variants in the DNA mismatch repair genes in a human stem cell model system. The goal is to study the functional effects of these variants. Summer students will initially learn some molecular biology techniques to assist in validating the creation of these variant cell lines. As the project goes forward, there is the opportunity to learn some human cell culture techniques and perform some CRISPR editing.
Project Direction Our lab studies the hereditary colorectal cancer disease called Lynch syndrome, which is caused by inheriting a germline mutation in one of the four major DNA mismatch repair genes. The identification of a sequence variant in a patient, however, does not automatically mean that variant causes their cancer. For some variants, it is hard to predict the consequences, which creates uncertainty for clinicians and their patients. Our work provides functional evidence that a given variant is truly disruptive to the gene product and is likely to be responsible for the cancer phenotype. This work will guide the proper diagnosis of a cancer patient so that they can be managed accordingly, and the risk of cancer in other family members can be properly ascertained.
Mentorship and Supervision As PI, I will oversee the student’s progress. We will do this through weekly lab meetings as well as one-on-one meetings. In addition, the student will work closely with senior members of the lab who will provide much of the hands-on training and be available for questions and to provide feedback as well.
Student Qualifications Optimally, the student will have had some biology courses, though we encourage rising sophomores (current first years) to apply. Any lab experience is a plus, but not required.
Summer Schedule Options Research Dates: May 22 to July 28, 2023
Schedule: The lab is open almost every day. Scheduling is somewhat flexible, though will mostly be during the regular work day. Some weekend hours may be necessary depending on the state of the project.
Project Continuation Fall 2023, Spring 2024
Academic Year Time Commitment 3-6 hours/week
Possible Thesis Project Yes


Submit an online application for this research opportunity at The application deadline is Monday, January 30, 2023.

This application requires a cover letter, a resume or CV, and an unofficial transcript. References should be available upon request.