Surprisingly, I haven’t always loved science. As a child, I actually struggled in the subject but could typically manage to get a “B” in class. My mom always made me write “super sentences” with my spelling words. While in math I caught on very quickly. So, those subjects were never an issue. I remember one instance specifically. I brought home a progress report, and my grade in science was a “C.” My dad gave me this look and said “I know you can do better than this, this isn’t you.” And instead of yelling at me, he helped me. By the time report cards came out, I had an “A.” As time went on my uncles helped me complete a few science projects, which made me more interested in what science was all about. However, I first truly fell in love with science when I enrolled in Physical Science with Mrs. Dupree. I was always excited to go to class and learn everything and anything she could teach me. Many people told me that some of the topics covered in this class would be continued in chemistry classes. So I signed up for Honors Chemistry with Genia Morris. Students spoke highly of her at my high school. When I got in that classroom, something happened. I can’t explain it, but as time went on I felt like I belonged there, as if I had found what I was supposed to do. The only thing I hated was that I was a senior when I took this class. If I could go back in time, I would take the class sooner, so that I could have taken AP Chemistry (a more in-depth course) before graduating. It was because of this class that I applied for colleges knowing what I wanted to study.
I only applied to UNC Pembroke and Campbell University. Both schools had great chemistry departments, but I chose UNCP. I was able to apply to and get into the Esther G. Maynor Honors College during the summer before freshman year. Ever since I stepped onto this campus, amazing things have happened to me. I am a part of the Lambda Sigma Honor Society, COMPASS Scholarship Program, Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honors Society, and this year I was also fortunate to be selected as a Glaxo Women in Science Scholar. This university has helped me become more successful than I had ever dreamed I would be.
Why did I choose UNCP?
I chose UNCP for many reasons. The University was an hour from my hometown, whereas Campbell was only 20 minutes from my house. I wanted to get the full college experience, and I couldn’t get that by staying at home and attending Campbell. I wanted a distance where I wouldn’t feel homesick. I also heard amazing things about the school and surrounding areas. Being accepted into the honors college also played a factor into my decision. Overall, Pembroke checked more boxes off my list than did Campbell. Surprisingly, the first time I actually saw the campus was during my freshman orientation weekend. Once the weekend ended, I knew I had made the right choice.
What do I like most about UNCP?
One of the most comforting things about UNCP is that professors will remember you. At larger institutions some professors may not know any of their students on a personal level. Here at UNCP the professors make every effort to get to know you and help you succeed. I don’t think I could’ve accomplished as many things as I have if I would’ve attended a different university.
What are my post-graduation plans?
I will be graduating UNCP in the spring of 2018. During the spring semester I will be applying to postbaccalaureate programs. After attending a postbac program, I would like to attend graduate school. I am unsure of what I would like to study in graduate school, but the possibilities are endless.
What research experiences have I had?
This summer I had the opportunity of conducting research through UNC Chapel Hill’s SPIRE Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. I was mentored by Dr. Dan Brown in the lab of Dr. Jiandong Liu. My lab partner and I worked on two projects together.
- Project1: Neuregulin1-III is critical for cardiac trabecular maturation and innervation in zebrafish.
In the first project we studied the Neuregulin-1 (Nrg1) ErbB2/ErbB4 pathway in zebrafish. This pathway plays a critical role in cardiac development, function, and homeostasis. The loss of all three isoforms of Nrg1 or ErbB2/4 was developmentally lethal in rodent models. Previous studies have demonstrated that the loss of Neuregulin-1 isoforms I and II did not cause lethality or have an impact on cardiac development in zebrafish. Interestingly, the complete loss of Nrg1 (pan knockout) was not lethal in zebrafish, but did cause structural and functional defects in juvenile and young adult zebrafish. Therefore, we sought to describe the cardiac outcomes following the loss of Nrg1-III. We specifically focused on how the loss would affect trabecular density and cardiomyocyte cell count. We crossed Nrg1-III mutants in transgenic backgrounds that label nuclei and cardiomyocytes. Unfortunately, we were not able to go any further with this project because of time limitations. However, once the fish reach SL-10-20 they will be sectioned via cryostat and then examined using fluorescent confocal microscopy. If zebrafish lacking Nrg1-III have comparable trabecular density and cardiomyocyte reductions when compared to the pan-Nrg1 knockout, it will suggest that Nrg1-III is critical for cardiac trabecular maturation and innervation of the zebrafish ventricle.
- Project 2: Developmental polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure reduces cardiac sarcomere size and cell morphology in zebrafish.
In the second project, we studied how developmental exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) would impact cardiac morphology on a cellular level. Studies have shown that high concentrations of certain PAHs will cause defects in cardiac morphology as fish develop. The cardiac defect is misalignment of the atrium and ventricle in the fish. Until now that was as far in detail as studies had gone. Therefore, we sought to understand what was happening on a cellular level. In our study, transgenic zebrafish labeled with cmlc2:Cypher GFP and cmlc2:Mkate caxx were crossed to mark cardiac sarcomeres and cardiomyocyte cell borders. Embryos in the 4-8 cell stage were then exposed to varying dilutions of a complex PAH mixture derived from sediments collected at the Elizabeth River Superfund Site. Larval hearts were then imaged and assessed at 120 hours post fertilization (hpf) via fluorescent confocal microscopy and image J, respectively. Our findings suggest that developmental PAH exposure resulting in atrium and ventricle misalignment was accompanied by sarcomere shortening and decreased cell size. While this study strengthens our basic understanding of how PAHs specifically impact cardiomyocyte and cell morphology, we cannot ultimately say which precedes the other.
Photo to the far left: Amelia Brown at summer research poster presentation
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