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Utica College grad gets sought-after lab fellowship

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - Biochemists and researchers around the world would love to be sitting in recent Utica College graduate Heather McManus' chair.

"This fellowship program, as I'm sure other people have told you, is one of the most prestigious fellowships around. People apply from all over the world to come here and work for 10 weeks in the summer with some of the most distinguished cardiac scientists on the planet," says UC biochemistry professor Dr. Daniel Barr.

A collaboration between Masonic Medical Research Laboratory and UC brought McManus to the lab in January; the work she's doing  -- isolating DNA from patient samples and looking for mutations -- is keeping her at the lab for a highly sought after summer fellowship. The work she and other researchers are doing examines cardiac arrhythmia, including how it relates to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

In addition to getting the opportunity to learn from some of the world's most talented biochemists, "they're nice," says the recent UC grad.  She says the atmosphere at Masonic Medical Research Laboratory reminds her daily why she chose to dedicate her professional life to research.

"The atmosphere is amazing. Everybody is so nice to you, they explain everything to you.  They explain everything to you. If you don't understand, you're never afraid to ask questions and the work that they're doing is groundbreaking and it can help people, which essentially is the core reason why I love research,"  says McManus.

Dr. Barr says a projected shortage in researchers highlights the need for programs like this one, which take graduates from cap and gown to lab coat.

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