Tag: Profiles

Glenn Gilyot: Molecular Sensors and STEM Education

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Dr. Glenn Gilyot wearing safety glasses and gloves while pipetting a liquid from a tube.
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Glenn Gilyot.

Glenn Gilyot, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry at Hampton-Sydney College in Virginia, studies how to use fluorescent sensors to detect certain disease biomarkers in the body. He credits two NIGMS training programs that he participated in as an undergraduate and graduate student with helping him launch a successful career in research. Outside the lab, Dr. Gilyot is passionate about science outreach and encouraging future researchers to follow their curiosities.

An Early Introduction to Chemistry

Working in chemistry runs in Dr. Gilyot’s family: His grandfather was a pharmacist at a small pharmacy in New Orleans, Louisiana, and his father was a criminalist for the New Orleans Police Department. “When I was a kid, I’d visit both my grandfather and father at work. My grandfather would tell me about the medicines he had in the store and explain what they did in the body. My dad would show me the instruments, such as a mass spectrometer that helped him find out the chemical composition of samples from crime scenes,” says Dr. Gilyot.

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Bryan Dickinson Designs Molecules to Solve Biological Mysteries

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A portrait image of Dr. Dickinson.
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Bryan Dickinson.

“Being a researcher gives you the opportunity to have an impact on the world. It’s a privilege to be able to answer questions that can make a difference in people’s lives,” says Bryan Dickinson, Ph.D. He first fell in love with science as an undergraduate student, and now, as a professor of chemical biology at the University of Chicago, Dr. Dickinson still finds excitement in even the most challenging research questions.

Where Chemistry Meets Biology

Dr. Dickinson majored in biochemistry at the University of Maryland (UMD) in College Park, but he didn’t know what it meant to be a researcher until he started working in labs. His experiences in an analytical chemistry lab at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and then a biophysics lab at UMD helped him realize that research isn’t like science taught in the classroom, with a list of facts to learn. “The reality is that science is a set of guiding principles that we test under different conditions to learn when they apply in the world,” says Dr. Dickinson. He enjoyed the freedom in asking scientific questions and in how research could be like solving a puzzle.

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Motor Proteins and Microscopy: Q&A With Morgan DeSantis

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A portrait image of Dr. Morgan DeSantis.
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Morgan DeSantis.

“I remember thinking in my first cellular biology class how impossibly beautiful it is that there are tiny machines in our bodies doing work,” says Morgan DeSantis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. We talked with Dr. DeSantis about how her career in science almost didn’t happen, how happy she is that it did, and what she’s learning through her research on molecular machines.

Q: How did you become interested in science?

A: I wasn’t remotely interested in science in high school—I was a self-identified artist. I went to the College of Wooster in Ohio with the sole purpose of studying art and doing pottery. But one day during my freshman year, a box with all the pieces I made throughout the year fell, and everything inside broke. It’s hard to describe the emotions I felt that day, but something changed in me, and I realized pottery wasn’t for me. I couldn’t start the projects over, and I didn’t want to drop out and move back home. So, I decided to become a medical doctor.

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Advancing Endometriosis Research With Caroline Appleyard

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A headshot of Dr. Appleyard.
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Caroline B. Appleyard.

The job opening at Ponce Health Sciences University (PHSU) in Ponce, Puerto Rico—home to great coral reefs—seemed like a perfect fit for Caroline B. Appleyard, Ph.D., given that scuba diving was one of her favorite hobbies. She only intended to stay for a short time, but now, more than 25 years later, Dr. Appleyard is a professor of physiology and pharmacology and program director of the NIGMS-funded Graduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (G-RISE) at PHSU.

An Interest in Inflammation

Growing up in Scotland, Dr. Appleyard was captivated by a children’s show with science demonstrations that helped kids and teens understand the world around them. She enjoyed studying biology and chemistry, and in high school, joined a lab at a local university that studied pharmacology. Her lab project studying the medicine aspirin ultimately solidified her interest in a career in research.

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Martin Burke: Replacing Lost Proteins to Treat Disease

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As a medical student, Martin Burke, M.D., Ph.D., helped care for a young college student with cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited disease that affects the body’s ability to make sweat and mucus. Dr. Burke had just studied CF in class, so he relayed what he had learned to her. He had a lot of information to give—doctors and researchers know the exact amino acid changes in an ion channel protein called cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) that cause CF.

A portrait shot of Dr. Martin Burke standing in front of complex machinery.
Credit: UIUC News Bureau, Fred Zwicky.

“At one point in the conversation, she stopped me and said, ‘It sounds like you know exactly what’s wrong with me, so why can’t you fix it?’” Dr. Burke, now the May and Ving Lee Professor for Chemical Innovation at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), never forgot this question. In fact, it’s inspired his career-long search for new ways to develop therapies for diseases without effective treatment options.

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Investigating the Primary Cilium: Q&A With Xuecai Ge

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A headshot of Dr. Xuecai Ge.
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Xuecai Ge.

The brain is a large and complex organ, but some very small structures guide its development. Xuecai Ge, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Merced (UC Merced), has devoted her career to understanding one of these structures called the primary cilium. In an interview, Dr. Ge shared how her childhood experience inspired her to study science and what makes the primary cilium fascinating.

Q: How did you first become interested in science?

A: When I was a little kid, my mom was a primary care doctor, and I saw her treat patients in our community. I noticed that no matter who got a particular illness, she could use the same medicine to treat them. My little mind was amazed that the same medicine could work for so many different people! I think this early experience planted the original seed of my interest in life science.

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Amie Fornah Sankoh Achieves a Scientific Dream

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A headshot of Dr. Amie Fornah Sankoh.
Credit: LinkedIn.

“I wanted to give up so many times. Although I tried to remain positive, I never thought I’d be able to finish my Ph.D. But I made it, and I’m extremely proud of myself,” says Amie Fornah Sankoh, Ph.D., a research scientist with Dow Chemical Company who received NIGMS support as a graduate student.

Human and Plant Communication

Dr. Sankoh has loved science and mathematics since she was just a child growing up in Sierra Leone. When she was 3 years old, Dr. Sankoh became deaf from a childhood disease. Math, unlike other subjects, is very visual, which played a part in her interest in it. “Before I learned American Sign Language when I was 15 years old, I could only understand one language: mathematics,” Dr. Sankoh says.

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Developing Low-Cost Lab Techniques: Q&A With Abraham Badu-Tawiah

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A headshot of Dr. Abraham Badu-Tawiah.
Credit: Ohio State University.

“I never thought I could make an impact on chemistry and students’ lives. But now, I’m the head of a lab with several Ph.D. and undergraduate students and a postdoctoral researcher; and we’re developing simple, low-cost lab techniques that can be adopted by labs across the world,” says Abraham Badu-Tawiah, Ph.D., the Robert K. Fox Professor of Chemistry at Ohio State University in Columbus. We talked with Dr. Badu-Tawiah about his career progression, research, and advice for students hoping to launch a career in science.

Q: How did you get started on the path to a career in science?

A: In Ghana, where I grew up, education works differently than in the United States. High school students are assigned subjects to study primarily based on their grades, and once assigned a subject, it’s difficult to switch. I was assigned to math, physics, and chemistry, which put me on a path toward being an engineer. I was happy to be studying science, but after the death of my brother, I wanted to study medicine more than engineering.

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Broadening Opportunities for Students in STEM at Brown University and Beyond

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A headshot of Dr. Andrew G. Campbell.
Credit: Courtesy of Brown University.

Andrew G. Campbell, Ph.D., a professor of medical science at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and previous dean of the graduate school, is passionate about researching understudied diseases and helping students reach their full potential.

Dr. Campbell’s lab has studied the single-cell organism Trypanosoma brucei (T. brucei), a parasite transmitted through the bite of the tsetse fly, which is only found in specific regions of Africa. In humans, T. brucei causes African Trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness. Symptoms of this illness include headache, weakness, tiredness, and altered sleep schedules; and if left untreated, it can be fatal. Dr. Campbell studies the function of certain enzymes found in T. brucei and other infectious agents, like hepatitis B virus and HIV, with the hope that they can serve as targets for new treatments for diseases.

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RISE-ing Stars From Northern Arizona University

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Chantel wearing a traditional Native American dress and holding a graduation cap.
Chantel Tsosie at her college graduation, wearing her Tribe’s formal, traditional rug dress that her grandmother made. Credit: Courtesy of Chantel Tsosie.

“Science is for everyone. It’s in everything. It exists in cultures everywhere,” says Chantel Tsosie, a master’s student in the NIGMS-supported Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff. The program aims to prepare a diverse group of students for research careers through culturally relevant support, hands-on research experiences, and a tailored curriculum.

Chantel started her bachelor’s studies at NAU as a dental hygiene major and later changed her focus to biomedical sciences. “I’m from the Navajo Nation, and growing up on the reservation, I wasn’t really exposed to research as a career. At NAU, I began taking classes like microbiology and chemistry and found that I loved the lab portions of those. I met scientists who were Indigenous and really started looking up to them,” she says. When a faculty member brought RISE to her attention, she was immediately interested and reached out to its leaders, Catherine Propper, Ph.D., and Anita Antoninka, Ph.D.

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