Spying on Cells
Edna Kemboi ’16 earned a cellular research internship at a graduate institute for life sciences.
June 15, 2020
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Edna Kemboi ’16 spent the summer before her senior year researching cell development for an internship at a graduate school dedicated to bioscience, furthering her interest in improving pharmaceuticals.
The molecular biology major grew cells at the Keck Graduate Institute in Claremont, California, closely examining the process of a single cell dividing. She reported to Keck on her work every two weeks and completed a display of her research at the end of her internship.
The research opportunities Kemboi has been exposed to at Kenyon helped her to land the competitive internship. During the school year, Kemboi works in the Kenyon lab of Professor of Chemistry Mo Hunsen, where she screens chemicals for their ability to induce antioxidant responses in cells, potentially preventing the development of tumors.
“I want to test compounds on cells and see how they react and see how you can modify drugs to work better in the body,” she said.
Kemboi also has worked at the Brown Family Environmental Center and spent the summer before her junior year interning in her home country at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi, where she used a wide variety of cellular and molecular techniques related to tropical and infectious diseases, including malaria and HIV.
The internship in Nairobi convinced Kemboi that she wanted a future in research. “As long as you follow the correct procedure and you get results, those are good results. There is no wrong answer. That’s the best part of research,” she said.
Kemboi, from Eldoret in western Kenya, said girls in the country face challenges getting an education because they are responsible for much of the work around their houses. But she was able to attend a boarding school for her secondary school years and came to Kenyon through a program in her home country that helps top students attend schools in the U.S.
Professor of Biology Wade Powell, Kemboi’s advisor, said she has made an amazing transition from Kenya to Kenyon. The collaboration with classmates and close interaction with instructors at Kenyon is completely different than the classroom atmosphere that she grew up experiencing.
“She has thrived at Kenyon, facing both cultural and academic challenges head on,” Powell said. “I expect she will go on to develop a successful career in biomedical sciences and hopefully have a big impact on the health and well-being of generations of Kenyans in the future.”
By Rachel Downey