BLaST Scientist of the Month: Megahn Reese

Megahn Reese
Photo courtesy Megahn Reese

Megahn Reese, who is of Potawatomi heritage, is a senior pursuing a B.S. in biological sciences with a concentration in biomedical science. Reese is a BLaST Undergraduate Research Experience recipient for spring 2020, spring 2021 and now the academic year 2021-2022. She is passionate about giving back to underserved communities and will graduate in May 2022. She plans on working as an EMT before applying to graduate school. She enjoys the outdoors, skiing, hiking, camping and taking care of her many house plants.

Reese has been working in Andrej Podlutksy’s cell and molecular lab since fall of 2019, studying DNA repair in ovarian cancer cell lines OV90 and SKOV3 in response to x-ray damage using the standardized comet assay procedure.

“This project has really cultivated my love for science and inspired me to consider a career in women’s health or oncology," she said. "My experience in the URE program has also given me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have been learning while pursuing my degree and allowed me to find a bright and devoted network of peers and professors."

“This project addresses a societal issue that has affected nearly every species, cancer. Information on cancer cell lines is pertinent to the mission of the One Health initiative because it contributes to the identification of correct treatments for members of our community who are ill. One Health shines a light on the idea that projects such as this can have a widespread impact within all aspects of our society. DNA repair times are vital for research on treatments on ovarian cancer and my project is aimed to shed light on this.”

Reese has been mentored under the guidance of Andrej Podlutsky and Robert Williams, former BLaST URE and current UAF M.S. graduate student. She also credits learning from her peers, especially Tristan O’Donoghue, who was a past URE and graduated May 2020.

“All my mentors taught me to help other students in learning lab techniques that will prepare them for their careers," she said. "Andrej Podlutsky has prepared me to succeed after receiving my degree by teaching me to be resourceful and confident in my knowledge. I entered undergraduate research with no laboratory experience, and he taught me from the ground up, offering advice and professional development.”

Through this pandemic, she and her research team have been meeting bi-weekly via Zoom on how to move forward with the project and overcome any issues that come up. Communication is sometimes daily to share progress to make sure they keep up with projected timelines.

“All of these people play large roles in my project, as they help me with questions and procedures that require assistance," Reese said. "My mentors and peers have provided much needed support during my journey to becoming a more well-rounded and confident student researcher.”

For more information, about BLaST, contact Amy Topkok at