Research & U: ‘Team Cohen’

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By Aviva Hope Rutkin

Danielle Steinmetz ‘12 is on a team. She’s not an athlete; she’s a research student in Professor Brian Cohen’s laboratory, also known around the biology department as Team Cohen.

Steinmetz officially began working in the lab in March, and completed an eight-week research fellowship with Cohen over the summer. She has considered herself an honorary member of Team Cohen, however, since taking Endocrinology with him sophomore year.

The lab, which is one of the largest among the sciences, has had over two dozen members in the last four years. Cohen considers this year’s group especially close. “It’s got much more of a family feeling this year,” he says. “It’s been really wonderfully productive.”

The lab’s main research focuses on the human follicle stimulating hormone receptor (hFSHR), a receptor which targets critical parts of the reproductive system. In theory, confirming the location of hFSHR and understanding how it works could help scientists develop products affecting birth control and infertility.

“If you figure out the receptor, you can manipulate anything and everything,” Steinmetz says.

Cohen, who has researched this topic since getting into it “by accident” in 2007, theorizes that the receptor resides in structures called caveolae (literally, “little caves”). Caveolae are a type of invaginated lipid raft, which are specialized domains that help monitor the cell membrane.

Along with fellow research students Jillian Coffey ‘12 and Chelsea Curtis ‘12, the group works off of research done by past Team Cohen students and runs different experiments to explore this theory.

As a member of Team Cohen, Steinmetz also contributes to the research of her fellow benchmates doing research in other areas. For example, four times a month, she spits into a cup for Kim Klion ‘12. Klion studies how salivary cortisol levels change when people are stressed, and where better to collect her data than genuine student saliva?

Researchers who spit together, stick together.

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