New ideas about home-based testing.

New ideas about home-based testing.

A bedroom closet is an unusual genetic research lab, but Katherine Aull ’08 is not your typical year-out-of-college grad. An applied biological sciences major, Aull initially worked as a research associate at the now-defunct Codon Devices, a Cambridge-based maker of synthetic DNA fragments. Now she has brought her work home literally–she’s examining her own genes in search of a genetic mutation that can be lethal.

Her investigations began after her father was diagnosed with hemochromatosis, a build-up of iron in the blood. He was successfully treated by regularly drawing blood. Aull wanted to know her own probability of the same illness so she’s assembled equipment from ordinary kitchen tools to a vintage thermal cycler, used to alternately heat and cool snippets of DNA. A cool short video embedded in the Boston Globe article shows how she performs the experiment.

Aull’s initial test shows that she does carry the problematic genes—but she will retest. Her dad, engineer Ken Aull, says she’s inherited at least one other thing from him: “She’s just a native engineer–taking science and striving to make it practical.”