Thursday, July 25, 2024

Student researcher examines DRD4

Plattsburgh State student Dorian Yablin has entered her fifth year at PSUC, making her a “super senior.” This extra year has given her the time to become a head RA for the fifth time and hang out with her peers for a little while longer, all while adding genetic research to her resume.

“Just being around her makes you feel better,” Yablin’s boss, Mason Hall Resident Director Morgan McAdams, said. “I can tell from her daily attitude that there is no doubt great things will happen to her. She puts so much life into everything she does that it will return in her favor.”

From putting on building programs for residents to talking to students on her floor, McAdams said she is lucky to have Yablin as her head RA this year.
Yablin uses her energy to help people-what she calls a hobby.

Since the age of 5, Yablin’s father has been in a nursing home. Every Sunday she and her family would visit him, and Yablin would be the first person to volunteer to push his wheelchair down to the events the nursing home was hosting.

“I always felt so excited to push his chair,” Yablin said. “I would be like ‘That’s me! I’m helping.’”

Coming from a Christian and Jewish background, she would help at every dinner and rummage sale her church held. Not only is she interested in helping people and her community, Yablin is fascinated with people in general.

Majoring in geography and minoring in planning chemistry and biology, she consistently encounters people from various parts of the world. As a geography major, Yablin had the chance to learn how people from different cultures interact with their environment.

This past summer, she traveled with her boyfriend to 14 different countries across Europe in only 37 days. To her, traveling is her way of seeing what is out there and learning about the different opportunities she can have.

“There is so much to this world, and it’s so easy to get stuck into what you’re doing and where you are and making that all that matters in the world, but it’s not,” Yablin said.

During her exhibition across the UK, Yablin had the chance to fulfill a requirement for her major with her adviser Bryan Higgins, who is a professor at PSUC. She focused her report on the city of Marseille in the southern part of France.

Higgins said he pushed Yablin to focus on tourist areas and how people live there because not many people focus on that aspect of life.

“She has a really good character,” Higgins said. “She’s always been very ambitious in what she wanted to do, and I always appreciated that.”

Higgins said her drive towards medical school is extraordinary.

“This past summer she had the chance to shadow a neurosurgeon,” Higgins said.

Yablin spent her summer at Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester following a neurosurgeon and observing steps in surgery and talking to patients.

“I love the brain,” Yablin said. “I saw so many amazing things.”

Yablin started every Tuesday at 7 a.m., in full-scrub attire, in the surgery room with the hospital’s doctors.

“It’s a lot of standing but so worth it,” Yablin said. “The doctors would pause what they are doing and show me what they are actually looking for.”
This medical experience got her started on the genetics research she is doing at PSUC.

PSUC Biology Professor Nancy Elwess and Yablin’s mentor for her genetic research, said she came to her looking for an opportunity to do research. Out of the choices and research Yablin had done, she chose the DRD4 gene.

Elwess said this gene is called the risk-taking-thrill-seeking gene. Risk-takers are those who are not afraid to go into battle or fire, like firefighters or soldiers. The thrill seekers are ones who jump off mountains, ski or bobsled.

For Yablin’s research, she is focusing on expeditionary studies majors and if they have the DRD4 gene. She took 40 samples from each student and is now in the process of going through each one.

“She is going a lot faster than I thought,” Elwess said. “Dorian is like a little sponge absorbing everything I have been teaching her.”

Yablin said focusing on the expeditionary studies major gave her access to see if they express the gene more than an average person.

“I want to see if there is any genetic connection to them deciding on this major or they are just doing it just because,” Yablin said.

Email Samantha Stahl at

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