Undergraduate Biology Student Researcher: Drew Honeycutt

Drew Honeycutt is a Microbiology Major in Dr. David Davido’s Lab. Drew’s heading into his junior year and has been working in a research lab since December 2021!

Drew's Research at KU

“My lab works with HSV-1, the herpes simplex virus. We're studying the ICP-0 protein, which is a viral protein in HSV-1. We're trying to find what proteins ICP-0 degrades in a cell. [To do so] we put two reporter genes in a cell, a DS-Red and a GFP protein, that fuse to our host protein. Then we infect the cells with the herpes simplex virus and after a while we look for any decrease in the GFP expression. If ICP-0 does degrade the protein then the GFP will also be lower in expression and we can measure that decrease.

We're trying to find out what proteins ICP-0 degrades upon infection. We know there's already a couple, but we don't know the broad overview of the proteins ICP-0 destabilizes or degrades in a cell. We’re trying to get a better understanding of that.”

How did your first become interested in doing this kind of research?

“There was a specific moment in middle school-- we had a social science class and one day we looked at a kid's Scholastic magazine and there was a story about the Ebola virus. The people who were researching [the virus] had to wear these big BSL 4 suits, that kind of looked like spacesuits to me, and I thought it was really cool that those people had to wear that much protection  for something that you couldn’t see. That was the start of it and then going through high school and other science classes it just added fuel to that fire.

It wasn't really until I started looking for colleges that I realized I could actually start doing research and trying to figure out things in real life.”


What does your research look like on a day-to-day basis?

“We grow eukaryotic cells multiple times a week, we take care of them and watch at them and make sure they're happy. Then we use the cells for our experiments.

There’s also a data analysis, making sure that the changes are really significant, and then there’s a lot of research, trying to learn new protocols and methods and trying to create protocols or instructions for how you can apply that method in your workflow.”

How long have your been working on this research?

“I've been in [Dr. Davido’s] lab for a little over a year. I think I joined mid or early December 2021. I found the opportunity during my college search, I found out that KU was a good research school, and it was also close to home. One of my goals was to join a research lab and try to get experience. ”

Have you made any discoveries or findings?

“The project I'm working on has been stalled for a few years, so I'm trying to pick it up and get it running again. There’re no real big discoveries, but I myself have learned a lot about each experiment and process that we do. I just learned about how sensitive some [processes] are and how to better use them and how they can be applied to other things.”

What did you find most challenging about doing your project?

“The hardest thing about getting involved with research is reaching out to the professor who runs the lab and trying to get in. There are a lot of research labs at KU but there's still a certain number of students that they can hold. It's likely that you'll get rejected and it's not because of your talent or skills, it's just because they're full.”

What advice would you offer to other students?

“Just shoot your shot and keep trying. I talked to my freshman year R.A. about it because she worked in a laboratory as well, and she said to just annoy the [professor] as much as possible until they accept you. But I don't know how well that'll work, but really just wait and keep emailing them and just the hope.
Project wise, I'd say try to understand the experiment you're doing. Understand the theory behind it and everything that goes on in it because during experiments there's a lot of improvising where you really need to understand the theories and the interactions of each component to help you solve any problems that may arise.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“[...] I do crochet. I'm still pretty new, so I ‘m making scarves and hats. I also try to play or participate in whatever I can, sports events or whatnot.
[I got into crochet] during like my freshman year. I was looking on [RockChalkCentral.com] for events and clubs and I saw a meeting for a KU club called Warm the World, that crochets items for homeless people. One day, I was bored and decided to go join them and I enjoyed it so I kept up with it.”

What do you plan to do after you graduate from KU?

“I definitely want to go to graduate school to do more research and get a degree. That's kind of my main plan. I don't know if I want to keep staying in the academic world or go to industry or some private sector but know I'd like to go to graduate school.”