Meet a Scientist: Nathalie Fuentes

Graduate School
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Meet Nathalie!

This is the second post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Nathalie Fuentes, who will be starting her graduate studies at Penn State College of Medicine this fall. 

Meet Nathalie: 

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

¡Hola! I am originally from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. I did my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry with a minor in Linguistics at Iowa State University. Go Cyclones! I am an upcoming 1st-year graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Penn State College of Medicine.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

My research started at the age of 5 with my first scientific fair. I have always been very curious; I researched plants, created a motor to produce electricity, analyzed the sound of a frog, and investigated pathogens in caves. It was during high school, and thanks to the NIH-STEP-UP program and to the International Scientific Fair, that I was able to perform molecular research. I fell in love with biochemistry during my first undergraduate internship at Penn State.

Lab PhotoIn an effort to soothe the patients, I also led a group of volunteers to help paint the walls in the Division of Pediatrics. One of the patients looked into my eyes and tried to tell me that she could not paint. This was a pivotal emotional moment that made me want to explore biochemical processes that govern the functioning of diseases. Once again, my desire to commit to the biomedical sciences field was reinforced.

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

Since I am an upcoming graduate student, I have not chosen an official research group yet, but I have an idea of what I would like to do. It was during my internships where I refined my research interest in biochemical and molecular mechanisms in tumor suppression, signal transduction pathways, gene expression and chromatin remodeling. This type of research helps to answer an important question: what is the mechanism behind diseases? Understanding a disease at a molecular level could lead to the development of new drugs and treatments.

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

Karate PhotoI think it is necessary to have a balance in life. During my free time, I enjoy providing guidance and mentoring to the next generation of scientists. I have helped high school students in networking with faculty, as well as providing academic support and fellowship to students aspiring to do research. I also LOVE to dance! I am a Salsa/Bachata dancer. I also LOVE to eat, especially cheese pizza!

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  • I speak Spanish, English and a little bit of American Sign Language and Portuguese!
  • I was raised on an island, but I DON’T know how to swim!
  • I am a yellow belt in Taekwondo!

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, you can sign up here.

Meet a Scientist: Lina Jamis

Graduate School
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Meet Lina!

This is the first post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. First up is Lina Jamis, a graduate student in the Anatomy program at Penn State College of Medicine. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve probably read many of her posts — most recently, her piece on virtual reality for the blog award.

Without further ado, meet Lina Jamis:

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

I hail from Potomac MD, which is a suburb very near Washington, D.C. I grew up with the best of both worlds. I went to Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!) where I studied Neurobiology. After graduating, I decided to pursue a Masters degree and I ended up at Penn State’s College of Medicine, where I study anatomy and physiology, and work in a molecular motors lab, studying the role of unconventional myosins in human sensory systems.

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Working hard…or hardly working?

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

I think my feelings on science can be best summarized by Eugene P. Kennedy, who wrote an article in the Annual Review of Biochemistry in 1992:

“The anonymity that is the fate of nearly every scientist as the work of one generation blends almost without a trace into that of the next is a small price to pay for its unending progress, the great long march of human reason…To feel that one has contributed to this splendid enterprise, on however small a scale, is reward enough for labor at the end of the day.”

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

I study the role of an unconventional class III myosin protein that has been localized to neurosensory epithelia; specifically, the stereocilia of the inner and outer hair cells of the ear. Its presence and function are critical to the process of hearing; without it, deafness ensues.

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Crossfitting it up!

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

  • Crossfit
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Reading multiple books at the same time
  • Writing poetry

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  • I’m an identical triplet (we’re all ladies)
  • I own four direwolves
  • I’m actually an old woman in the body of a 25 year-old

 

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, you can sign up here.

Meet a Scientist — sign up now!

Graduate School

Contrary to popular belief, not all scientists are balding, bespectacled men in white lab coats holding bubbling green test tubes.

10153767_452242308239083_7237143635612730590_nSo let’s show them who #WeAre!

Sign up here to be featured in an upcoming “Meet a Scientist” interview right here on Lions Talk Science.

We’ll ask some standard questions about your work, why you decided to become a scientist, etc. But what we really want to know is: who are you outside the lab? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Fun photos and videos are a bonus!

And don’t worry — whether or not you’ve contributed to the blog in the past, we’re still interested in telling your story.

Contact us with any questions. We’re looking forward to learning more about you!

 

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2nd Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award!

Blog Award

The judges’ scores have been tabulated, and we’re thrilled to announce the winners of our annual writing competition!

1st Place: Sadie Steffens – “What is 6 Weeks Worth? The Cost of Cancer Drugs and Extending Life”
2nd Place: Dan Hass – “Where in the Brain Does Deception Lie?”
3rd Place: Lina Jamis – “The Immersive World of Virtual Reality: Why VR is the Ultimate Neuroscience Experiment”

trophy-83115_640All of the entries were of incredibly high quality, and scores were VERY close! Entries were judged based on adherence to the theme, writing quality, scientific accuracy, and appropriateness for readers of the general public.

Thanks to everyone for participating. We’ll be back with a shiny new prompt next year!

We’d also like to extend a huge thanks to Dr. Michael Verderame, Kathy Simon, Kristin Smith, and Jordan Gaines Lewis for judging the competition this year.

Where in the Brain Does Deception Lie?

Neuroscience
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Santa’s favorite reindeer is Rudolph, of course. Source: Jonathan G. Meath (Wikimedia Commons)

By: Dan Hass, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

When my 8-year old niece asks me what Santa Claus’s favorite reindeer is, I do not tell her that Santa does not actually exist. I try to keep her as happy as possible, and I tell a white lie.

Lying is not an uncommon phenomenon. It is estimated that, on average, Americans lie 1.65 times daily.

While most of these are white lies, a study in the United Kingdom found that approximately one out of every two people tells a self-defined ‘big lie’ every day. Although these data are not evenly distributed (a few people who lie a lot may skew the statistics), deception is a part of our every day life [1].

What is 6 Weeks Worth? The Cost of Cancer Drugs and Extending Life

Biomedical Sciences

By: Sadie Steffens, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

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Source: PDPics (Pixabay)

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way.

Second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death, many of us have friends or loved ones who have suffered from cancer. News reports with big claims about novel cancer treatments give us hope, and we have a strong desire to eradicate the disease. We want to believe that a cure is imminent, possibly even in our own lifetime.

Although we don’t discuss it much as a society, cancer affects more than our emotions. We are all paying the financial costs of cancer, costs that are escalating so quickly that they will soon be unsustainable. I’m talking about the cost of cancer drugs.

The Immersive World of Virtual Reality: Why VR is the Ultimate Neuroscience Experiment

Neuroscience

By: Lina Jamis, 2nd year student in the Anatomy Graduate Program

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A virtual reality headset. Source: Maurizio Pesce (Flickr)

The promise of virtual reality has always been an enticing one—slip on this headset and escape to a new place, without ever stepping foot outside of the room.

It’s an experience so unusual, and yet so familiar, as it hijacks our own senses to provide the qualities we might find in reality, but within the confines of the mind. Not only can virtual reality (VR) serve as a powerful medium for gaming and storytelling, but it may ultimately give us further insight into sensorimotor neuroscience and how to use this knowledge to create visually convincing worlds.

2nd Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award: Accepting Submissions Now!

Blog Award

cup-160117_640Why is tanning dangerous? How does color perception differ between men and women? How do our brains filter out unimportant information, like the sound of the air conditioner whirring?

These are just a few of our students’ most recent posts that inspired this year’s award theme. In celebration of the blog’s 2nd birthday (today!), we’re thrilled to announce the 2nd Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award.

This year’s theme is: how science impacts our daily lives.

The details:

  • Your blog post must adhere to the theme. Your topic does not need to be related to your own research.
  • Keyboard_typingThe target audience for your blog should be the local Hershey community; assume a high school education or less, and keep the piece a reasonable length (400-600 words).
  • Submissions are due on Monday, May 18. Please e-mail your entries in Word format to Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu with the subject line “Blog Award Submission.” If you have not previously submitted to the blog, please also include an image of yourself and a short bio for our Contributors page.

Prizes and certificates will be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in the amount of $50, $25, or $10 to the Penn State bookstore or Starbucks (your choice).

Our panel of judges includes:

  1. Dr. Michael Verderame, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
  2. Dr. Kirsteen Browning, Associate Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences
  3. Kathy Simon, Director of Graduate Student Affairs
  4. Kristin Smith, Director of Admissions, Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
  5. Jordan Gaines Lewis, Lions Talk Science Editor-in-Chief

Please contact Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu with any questions. Note: at this time, the contest is only open to Penn State College of Medicine graduate students. Whether you’ve written for us in the past or just discovered our blog, we welcome all students to consider submitting!

Happy writing!

Why is Tanning Dangerous?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

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Do you use tanning beds? Image: Gerlach (Pixabay)

Summer will be here soon, and after being stuck inside all winter, it will be welcomed with open arms.

But as we plan trips to beaches and lakes around the country, a lot of us (including myself) will look at our pale arms and legs and think of ways to get that bronze glow to go along with the summer sun.

Millions of people will soon be soaking up the sun’s rays or purchasing a tanning membership in an effort to achieve a sun-kissed look, but take heed: there is one big reason to rethink lying in the sun or under the lamps of a tanning bed.

There are misconceptions that one way of tanning is less damaging than the other—some circles claim natural sunlight is good for your skin, while others believe the artificial lights of the tanning beds are actually better than sunlight.

In reality, both are dangerous, and the danger lies in the increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Hooked on Pills? There’s a Pill for That…

Neuroscience

By: Andrew Huhn, 4th year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

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Image: Adam from UK (Wikimedia Commons)

Americans are abusing prescription painkillers at an alarming rate.

In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid analgesics – that’s enough for every adult in the U.S. to have their own bottle of pills, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Opioid analgesics are a class of drug that includes Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin; it’s quite likely that you or a family member has been prescribed one of these after having surgery.

In addition to providing pain relief, opioid analgesics also activate the brain’s reward system, making it easy to become addicted. Given their similar mechanism of action, prescription opioid use can lead to heroin use. After all, heroin has become significantly less expensive and doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription.

While the current heroin boom is getting a lot of press, prescription opiate addiction gets little attention even though it leads to more overdose deaths per year than heroin and cocaine combined.

But can you fix an addiction to pills…with a pill?