Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Student Spotlight: Brittany West

by Marla Lobley on 2020-03-24T11:01:00-05:00 in Biology | Comments

Main take-away: Experiments, especially scientific experiments, are all about learning from failure. 

See description below


Brittany West: Brittany is a a Molecular Biology major with the intent to become a Physician Assistant. She conducted this research as part of ECU's Honor's Program.

Research Question

What is the nucleosome occupancy at the HTLV-1 promoter?

  • HTLV-1: Human T-Cell Leukemia/ Lymphoma Virus 1
  • Nucleosome: Protein complexes that tightly wind up DNA in cells
  • Promoter: The DNA sequence preceding the gene DNA sequence

Virus active: If the promoter has a mechanism to discourage tight nucleosome wrapping, the virus can be more active. Versus virus inactive: If DNA is tightly wrapped, it is difficult for cell enzymes to access the region and thus, the virus will not be active.

  • Researched the promoter while it was inserted in a plasmid. A plasmid is a circular piece of DNA.
  •  Induced chromatin assembly in vitro (in a test tube) using specific salt conditions to “mimic” conditions in a cell.

  • Performed a micrococcal nuclease digest after chromatin assembly, resulting in DNA linkers. A micrococcal nuclease is an enzyme that chops up DNA. DNA linkers are fragments of DNA that are between the nucleosomes.

  • Used Agarose Gel Electrophoresis to determine the lengths of DNA linkers. The length of the DNA linkers provides insight to how close together the nucleosomes are.


Unfortunately, the gel did not show any fragments. Brittany and her research advisor, Dr. Alisha Howard, believe the plasmid is complicating the research. She is continuing to experiment with other methods to isolate the promoter from the plasmid in order to have a linear strand.

"During this process, I have been surprised at how many new concepts, techniques, and skills I have learned that I never imagined being able to do on my own. I have also been surprised at how challenging it can be to obtain desired results. Science certainly involves being able to learn from failures and utilizing numerous resources to make adjustments for optimal outcomes. However, it has been very exciting and rewarding to learn at every step and it is an honor to be a part of discovering more about HTLV-1 as it could in turn help to determine more ways to combat it." - Brittany West

Learn more about HTLV-1 and other scientific research at

 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


  Follow Us

  Return to Blog
This post is closed for further discussion.