Biomedical Sciences Spotlight
Undergraduate Research Scholars Program
by Tiffany Friedrich
"I remember seeing an ad on television of a female scientist
holding a microscope," laughed Jacobs. "Once I saw that, I knew I
needed to become a scientist so that I could have a
Fortunately, Krystyna Jacobs and research assistant professor,
Dr. Gloria Conover, share the same passion and enthusiasm for
"Research is so much fun. It's like putting a giant
puzzle-together based on experimental evidence for the scientific
community," comments Conover. "Research definitely takes a great
deal of work and patience, it may take a week to get even one
result from an experiment, but it's all worth the effort when you
are the first person to see the result. It can also make a great
impact on the diagnosis and treatment of disease."
Jacobs is a member of the prestigious Undergraduate Research
Scholars program and presented a project in the Molecular Biology
& Microbiology category during Student Research Week. With the
assistaince of Dr. Gloria Conover and prospective graduate student
Samaneh Karami, Jacobs won first place with her poster
From left to right: Samaneh Karami, Krystyna Jacobs, and Gloria
Jacobs has been conducting research for two and a half years,
and has been working with Conover since September 2009. Conover has
convinced Jacobs to write a thesis for the Undergraduate Research
The program gives undergraduate honor students the opportunity
to showcase their hard work and research by writing a thesis at the
end of their senior year.
"Krystyna has put a huge amount of time and dedication into her
thesis so far," said Conover. "The Undergraduate Research Scholars
program requires a minimum of 12 hours a week, and she puts in at
least 16 to 20 during that timeframe, and is willing to work on the
weekends if needed for the experiments."
Student presentations are hosted every three weeks. This gives
the students a chance to practice presenting their research, as
well as making sure that what they have found is consistent with
what other researchers have found, and that the information makes
sense to the audience.
Jacobs' thesis will describe the research in muscle disease that
she and Conover have conducted over the past two semesters. The
project, entitled "The Effect of a Nemaline-Myopathy Nebulin on
Desmin Associated to Sarcomeres," was the subject of the winning
poster presentation. Their research, which is still in the
beginning stages, is on investigating the molecular mechanisms
underlying muscle diseases. The focus of Jacobs' thesis is on the
relationship between the intermediate filament protein desmin, and
nebulin, and the effect of this association in nemaline-myopathy,
the most common non-dystrophic skeletal myopathy in humans.
"Our main research interest in the laboratory focuses on the
role of intermediate filament proteins in disease," said Conover.
"Our goal is to decipher the functional significance of the
association of the filament desmin to the giant thin filament
nebulin, at the sarcomeric Z-discs, and its relation to muscle
disease. Mutations in nebulin cause nemaline-myopathy; a
debilitating genetic muscle disease that affects children and
adults alike. Interestingly, there are reports in the literature
that describe this condition in cats."
Conover's previous research showed that nebulin has high
affinity binding to desmin. However, little is known about the
involvement of this interaction in nemaline-myophathy.
"We still are searching for the effect that nebulin has on
certain mutations," said Jacobs. "We do know that the mutation has
an effect, we just need to figure out the mildness or severity of
that effect on the binding."
Jacobs has many aspirations. Upon her August graduation from
Texas A&M with a degree in Biomedical Sciences with her
extensive research experience behind her, she will apply to medical
school for the fall of 2011. This will give her a year-long break
from school and will also allow her the chance to work with Conover
on the nemaline-myopathy research.
"I enjoy research because you get to be right on the edge of new
discoveries," said Jacobs. "As a researcher in Conover's lab, I
have learned the value of patience. Research does not happen
overnight. It takes days, weeks, sometimes months to produce viable
results that help convey new information. It is a great feeling
when you have results that no one has ever seen or produced before.
Knowing that my research helps others to better understand the
'why' of nemaline-myopathy gives me a feeling of
Conover feels that it is important to give Biomedical Science
undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research, right
here at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
"I feel strongly that early experiences for undergraduate
research are essential for the advancement of the biomedical
sciences, because I believe that if a student experiences the joy
of the discovery process it will enhance and expand his or her
career choices," said Conover. "I like to foster the innate
creativity of our students in our research, and I also like to
mentor students about the many ways they can contribute to science
and pursue scientific careers at a professional level."
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