Meet a Scientist: Jaclyn Welles

Graduate School

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

Meet Jaclyn:

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Meet Jaclyn!

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 am from Bronx, New York. I went to college in Atlanta, Georgia at Clark Atlanta University where I completed my B.S. in Biology. Afterwards I completed a research post-baccalaureate program at the University of Alabama – Birmingham where I studied transcription factors and metabolism.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

I have always known that my life would lead me to a career in either medicine or science. It took me two internships and a post-bacc, however, to fully appreciate all that research had to give.  It was at my research pos-bacc that I ended up in a transcriptional genomics lab, and for the first time, I felt at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe that I had never encountered functional genomics, transcription factors, and metabolomics before. Everything clicked into place, and I just knew that molecular genetics was the area toward which I had always been striving.

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

Since I am now entering Penn State this summer as a graduate student, I have yet to actually choose a lab. However, I believe that when I do find a lab, I will aspire to continue pursuing research in molecular genetics. I am also very interested in the personalized medicine facilities here. It is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Penn State to begin with.

The genes found in our bodies are not only fundamentally important because they help make us who we are, but also because many of the diseases in existence today only exist due to slight differentiations within our genetic makeup. I truly feel that the keys to solving most diseases will all be found within the map that is our genome, and that it will be up to scientists like us to discover them one day.

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

j2I am first and foremost a huge foodie! I will try any food at least once with pleasure.  I am also a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I just recently tried kayaking & although my arms hated me for it 4 miles later, I loved it! I also love to run. I ran track for four years and the habit never left me.

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  1. I love scary movies. Come Halloween, I will be your go-to girl!
  2. My entire family is from Ghana, West Africa.
  3. I love to dance!

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: Caitlin McMenamin

Graduate School

This is the third post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Caitlin McMenamin, a 3rd-year graduate student in the Anatomy program.

Meet Caitlin:

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Meet Caitlin!

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?

Watch out — Jersey girl coming through! I grew up on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, a place where many people vacation, but I call home year round. For undergrad, I decided to explore below the Mason-Dixon line and attended James Madison University (Go Dukes!). I graduated with a major in Kinesiology and Biology, with a concentration in Exercise Science. I then came to Penn State College of Medicine to pursue a PhD in Human Anatomy. I am a rising 3rd year grad student in a lab in the Neural and Behavioral Sciences Department. So, I really consider myself an anatomist and neuroscientist.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

c2I’m not going to lie—if I were asked 5 years ago where I thought I would be and what I would be doing, it would not have been this. I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist for the longest time. It turned out I HATED it! After taking Anatomy & Physiology class in undergrad, I fell in love with the human body. It really is the most amazing thing. I then began searching for graduate schools to continue studying this newfound passion. I was not looking forward to doing research when I began the program in Hershey. Little did I know I would fall in love with that too! There are so many questions that have yet to be answered in science and we are sent on a mission to find the missing puzzle pieces. Research really is fun and everyday is one step closer to finding answers.

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

My thesis work is on how a perinatal high fat diet affects central vagal neurocircuits supplying the GI tract. It has been known that a maternal high fat diet predisposes offspring to obesity. Most of these patients have gastrointestinal problems as well, oftentimes exacerbating the outcome of obesity and associated diseases such as Type II diabetes. I focus on the area of the brainstem that supplies motor innervation to the GI tract and how the diet affects the function of these nerves in rats. A typical day in the lab is anywhere from recording membrane properties from neurons via electrophysiology, to performing surgeries and microinjections into areas of the brainstem, to doing immunohistochemistry to examine different markers in the CNS. Gotta keep it interesting, right?

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

I’m an avid runner/gym rat who works out really hard to then sit down and eat a whole cake. I love going to the shooting range, then getting a pedicure. Hiking. Paddleboarding/kayaking are activities that living near salt water has instilled in me. I also love dancing anywhere, any time.  Is napping a hobby? If so — then yes, that too.

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  • I was president of the sewing club in high school—yes, that’s a thing.
  • Pear-scented anything makes me happy.
  • Condiments freak me out.

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: Nathalie Fuentes

Graduate School
Portrait1

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
lina

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.

lab

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.

crossfit

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
640px-Jonathan_G_Meath_portrays_Santa_Claus

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!