Biochemistry Student Dives Into COVID-19 Research During Internship

Monday, September 14, 2020
Colin Beach smiling at his desk with a model of the coronavirus shown on his computer screen.

Biochemistry student Colin Beach analyzed the characteristics of the coronavirus and the causes for its resultant illnesses during a remote internship this past summer with Health & Science Innovations.

After more than six months as a fixture in the news and social media, most everyone is familiar with the model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted lives across the world.

But few have really looked inside into what makes up the coronavirus molecule, like student Colin Beach did this past summer.

As a research assistant with Indianapolis-based Health & Science Innovations, the junior biochemistry student analyzed the characteristics of the virus and the causes for its resultant illnesses, some of them deadly. From these investigations, Beach and other student researchers proposed an inhalable medication combination to improve treatments for those infected.

“It was interesting since our work focused on such an important health issue that is COVID-19,” he said. “My team’s main goal was to effectively educate others on the biological functions of the virus and the pandemic it produced.”

Also, Beach helped develop and study COVID-19 pre- and post-tests to track progress for other students participating in the company’s summer education programs.

Beach’s internship was unique because of its partnership with the Gregory S. Fehribach Center at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. The center provides and supports internship opportunities for students with disabilities like Beach, who is blind in one eye, while also providing him the opportunity to attend several online guest speaker events regarding professional development.

All of this happened from inside Beach’s home in Dayton, Ohio.

“My team primarily used Google Files to share and complete our technical work, while the scholarly articles and data we analyzed were found through online databases of highly accredited organizations like National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization,” he stated. “We also completed an online course on COVID-19 contact tracing from John’s Hopkins Medicine, as well as a few laboratory simulations from the online learning program Labster. Direct oversight came from Health & Science Innovations’ research and development manager, as well as other staff. General oversight also came from officials at the Fehribach Center.”

Over the course of the remote internship, Beach and colleagues were able to analyze dozens of scholarly articles, give a detailed research presentation to community leaders, and submit an executive summary of their work. He attributes much of this success to skills nurtured at Rose-Hulman.

“In my biochemistry major, a lot of coursework is focused on labs and research. Just from my first two years at Rose-Hulman, I have already performed a diverse set of laboratory and analytical projects, and as such have a very solid background of experience in research,” he said. “Major classes like organic chemistry, microbiology, biophysics, and nanomedicine have all offered their own unique perspectives on research and its real-world applications. From each of these classes, and more, I have developed a comprehensive skillset that assisted me with the scholarly article reading, data analysis, presentation preparation, and technical communication that my internship required.”

This summer’s internship helped further define Beach’s plans to attend graduate school. He’s hoping to focus on research in the biomedical sciences to develop innovations that could improve people’s health.

He has returned to Rose-Hulman this fall to take a new course examining the history of epidemics and the development of public health, along with classes and lab sessions in bioanalytical chemistry, biochemistry, and physical chemistry. He will get to do even more research as he begins his undergraduate biochemistry research project. Outside of academics, Beach is also a two-year varsity letterman on the varsity swimming team and front page editor of the student newspaper, The Rose Thorn.