Hannah Thorp

Hannah Thorp

Research in her Cells: Hannah Thorp

By Frances Badgett

Hannah Thorp was born for research.

When she graduates in June with a B.S. in molecular and cellular biology, Hannah, who hails from Albany, Oregon, will be the first in her family to graduate from college. Her father, an electrician, and her mother, a hairstylist, are exceptionally proud of their daughter and worked very hard to ensure she had the college education they were denied.

“They are a hundred percent supportive. They worked very hard so I could go to college and give me the opportunity they didn’t have.”

Hannah chose Western because of the emphasis on undergraduate research in the sciences. She was very curious about what being a researcher in biology would be like, and she knew Western would give her the opportunity to find out.

“I didn’t want to be in a huge school, and I didn’t want to have to wait until graduate school to see what it would be like to be a researcher. Western had the right resources and the right opportunities. We don’t have PhD programs at Western, so undergraduates and master’s students run the labs. It creates so many great opportunities for undergraduates.”

She also loves the curriculum-based research. “The way the classes are structured, I get to do research outside my focus, which is really fun. That really sets Western apart from other schools.”

Hannah cites biostatistics and advanced cellular and molecular biology lab as her favorite courses she’s taken so far at Western. Working with Associate Professor of Biology Suzanne Lee, Hannah's research focus is on an RNA interference pathway in Tetrahymena thermophilia, a single-celled model organism. She is studying the genome protective role this pathway may play in the Tetrahymena cells by looking at DNA damage in mutant strains lacking certain components of this pathway.

To aid in her research, Hannah received the Elwha Undergraduate Summer Research Scholarship. The scholarship was essential in her success as an undergraduate researcher.

“I was able to work all summer without having to worry about living expenses. I am so grateful to Mr. Kindler for his support through this scholarship. Working intensively was a great opportunity, and I was able to really progress in my work.”

She has presented her research at the 2023 American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conference, and will be a contributing author on at least two manuscripts that are underway in the Lee Lab.

“Professor Suzanne Lee has been such a great mentor. I have a hand in my project analysis from beginning to end, so I get influence over what I want to do and what direction I might want to take it in. She really freed me up to explore.”

As for her parents, her mother Kim—inspired by Hannah—is now at Oregon State University studying sustainable agriculture. She is on the Dean’s List and is thriving at OSU.

“She’s planning on going abroad next year to study at a seed bank in New Zealand. I realize now that I absolutely got my scientific brain from my mom.”

This WWU Give Day, your support goes to deserving, hardworking students who are out to change the world, like Hannah Thorp.