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Andrew Quinn '12 Awarded Downing to Study at Cambridge

Andrew Quinn '12

Andrew Quinn, Pomona College Class of 2012, has been awarded the prestigious Downing Scholarship. The award underwrites a one-year exchange to Downing College at the University of Cambridge and covers tuition, fees, living expenses and round-trip travel, as well as a stipend for books, local travel and personal expenses. The program is a special arrangement between Pomona and Downing College.

Quinn, a biology major, will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in biological science (genetics) in the laboratory of Dr. Frank Jiggins, which uses molecular techniques to study the genetic factors that promote viral resistance in Drosophila and how these factors are maintained in the population over time.

The research combines two interests for Quinn, using a genetic approach to try to answer co-evolutionary questions and research with practical implications for improving lives. “Most important infectious diseases are insect-vectored viruses, and understanding the factors which promote insect infection can aid efforts to manage such diseases," he explains. “My experiences studying abroad, examining plant-pollinator interactions in Costa Rica, and in [Pomona] Professor Len Seligman's lab have inspired my interest in these types of questions and given me an appreciation for the power of genetic techniques.”

At Pomona, Quinn’s senior thesis is “Isolation and characterization of archaeal Methanococcus jannaschii replication factor C-2 homing endonuclease and examination of activity on related species.” “Homing endonuclease genes,” he explains, “are selfish genetic elements that spread within or across species through the action of the enzymes they encode. [In my thesis,] I explore the evolutionary dynamics of one of these endonucleases–the archaeal Methanococcus jannaschii replication factor C-2 homing endonuclease–which has never before been expressed in the lab.”

Like his work in Prof. Seligman’s lab, says Quinn, “work with Dr. Jiggins involves beginning with a theoretical resistance gene and verifying its existence in the laboratory. The training in Drosophila I would receive in this lab would give me a sound background in a ubiquitous model organism, a skill set that would aid me as a prospective Ph.D. candidate in later years, and as an independent researcher and professor in later life.”

Quinn is a resident of Scotts Valley, CA, and is the son of Susan Quinn, of Los Gatos, CA. He has a sister, Kelly Quinn.