Callista Perry

About Me: I teach 7th grade Science at Sullivan Middle School in Worcester, MA.  My undergraduate degree is in Global Environmental Studies followed by an M.A.T. degree from Clark University.  My areas of interest are focused on human-environment interaction, environmental justice, ecology, and climate science.  In my life outside of the lab, I enjoy gardening, cooking, and reading.

About the Lab:

The mission of the Young lab is “to develop and use genomics-driven approaches to unlock biosynthetic potential and advance synthetic biology, which will result in new cell-based factories for biological production.”  The lab genetically edits microbes, using metabolic engineering, systems biology, protein engineering, and synthetic biology. Their goal is to unlock organisms’ potential and optimize biosynthetic pathways which produce reaction products of interest to industry and medicine.  The Young Lab’s research covers a wide scope of projects including, novel synthetic biology, creation of chemical and fuel cell factories, expanding applications of membrane protein engineering, and detecting genetically engineered organisms.



“Cell factories” are a method of biological engineering which allows for the optimization of cellular processes, in order to produce desired quantities of useful bio-products. Yeast can be used as a cell factory for many different bioprocesses which can be beneficial for healthcare and food industries, such as production of components for pharmaceuticals, food additives, supplements, and more.  Our project is based on the identification, cataloging, and comparison of wild type yeasts which are sourced from favorable and hostile environments. The goal of this research is to identify the types of yeast that grow in varying levels of favorability, and then compare how different environments influence the species and type of yeast colonies that grow in these samples. This information can be used to inform and influence decisions about the possible species of yeast that can be used in genetic engineering and bioremediation of toxic or contaminated regions. 

Our hope is that yeast from hostile environments such as contaminated soil, runoff drainage, or gasoline pumps will be identified. If identified, these yeasts may be able to be used in future research and engineering to contribute to bioremediation. Because these yeasts were found in regions with less favorable conditions, they may have more survivability than those found in cleaner soils, waters, or plants. These yeast could potentially be better suited to be used as vector organisms due to this higher tolerance, which would contribute to their success in heavy metal or oil bioremediation processes such as biosorption, biotransformation, and bioaccumulation.  Additionally, certain yeasts found in toxic or hostile conditions may already have existing mechanisms of metabolic bioremediation that could be optimized.

Weekly Updates:

  • Week 1:
    • Explored central concepts/tenets of synthetic biology
    • Learned theory and steps of PCR and CRISPR processes
    • Toured the Young lab, where we will work
    • Completed Program Orientation sessions
    • Discussed possible directions our project could take
    • Completed weekly PD session focused on Integrated STEM
    • Started research proposal
  • Week 2:
    • Met with faculty advisor to create formal plans for project
    • Submitted initial project proposal for review and edited accordingly
    • Completed weekly PD session focused on Engineering & Design process
    • Completed training on in-lab techniques and skills, including micro-pipetting, preparation of media solution, plate inoculation, and mini-preps for PCR
    • Began work on literature review for project
    • Created and revised initial methodology
    • Met with graduate student mentor to go over project proposal and methodology
  • Week 3
    • Started working on lesson plan and associated standards
    • Completed weekly PD session focused on 3/2-Dimensional Teaching and NGSS Practices
    • Collected samples from preselected locations
    • Revised and finalized methodology
    • Inoculating and plating of initial samples
    • Further refined our Research Proposal
    • Met with faculty mentor
  • Week 4
    • Completed weekly PD session focused on 2-D Assessment and rubrics
    • Collected final samples from preselected locations and finished processing initial samples
    • Continued inoculating and plating existing samples
    • Selected samples of interest for colony isolation and sequencing
    • Further refined our Research Proposal to reflect our updated project objectives and methods
    • Met with faculty mentor
  • Week 5
    • Completed weekly PD session focused on Attending to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity and incorporating real world problems in lesson planning
    • Completed training in gDNA extraction, PCR, DNA cleaning and concentration, and Nanodrop lab procedures and techniques
    • Completed serial dilutions of samples
    • Conducted and replicated gDNA extraction, PCR, DNA cleaning and concentration, and Nanodrop lab procedures for selected samples
    • Met with faculty mentor
    • Completed draft of our poster
    • Attended a feedback session for posters and edited accordingly
    • Expanded and continued developing lesson plan

Poster and Lesson Plan:

RET Lesson Plan Handout

RET Poster