Lainie Howell: Honing Lab Skills


Inside and outside the classroom, Lainie Howell is preparing for a future career as a drug researcher.

“I’ve always wanted to do research,” she said. “I love helping people, but I like the idea of helping more than one patient at a time. As a researcher, I can strive to be involved in developing drugs that help people all over the world.”

At Ohio Northern University, Lainie is enrolled in the Raabe College of Pharmacy’s new bachelor of science program in pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences. She chose ONU for its reputable academic programs and personalized approach. She’s also a legacy student following in the footsteps of her mom, Misti (Vent) Howell, BSPh ’98.

“I appreciate the small class sizes and being on a personal level with professors,” said Lainie, who hails from Upper Sandusky, Ohio. “All my professors know my name and ask me how I am doing in the hallways. They don’t just walk past me; I’m not just another face to them.”

In the spring of her freshman year, Lainie was invited by Shubha Gururaja Rao, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, to spend the summer working in her lab. Lainie jumped at the opportunity.

Photo of Lainie with a microscope

Dr. Rao is engaged in grant-funded research on ion channels present in the mitochondrial channels that regulate heart function. As her lab assistant, Lainie gained hands-on experience in order to investigate this question in a fruitfully model system using a combined approach of in vivo cardiac function recordings, immunochemistry, and biochemistry. It's an experience that most students wouldn't obtain until graduate school.

Some skills she learned: how to dissect the larvae of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly); how to use the high-powered confocal microscope; as well as some immunohistochemistry and biochemistry mechanisms such as staining of hearts and western blots.

“I wanted to get some research experience under my belt, just some basic lab skills, but I obtained so much more than that,” she said. “If I had went to a larger university, graduate students would be doing the work I got to do.”

Outside the classroom, Lainie is an outfielder on ONU’s softball team and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“My faith has always been very important to me; I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the relationships I gained through church,” she said. “While softball gives me an outlet from academics to do something I love.”

As she continues with her academic career, Lainie is looking forward to more lab research. “Most ONU professors are engaged in research and willing to train students who have little lab experience. I am grateful for Dr. Rao for providing me with initial research experience and for the other ONU professors who provides students with every opportunity for success,” she said.