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, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

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, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

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, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!