"I applied to the Scholars program in hopes of having the opportunity to learn from the most intelligent and passionate minds in the area of scientific research. My time spent in developing countries like the Philippines, Ghana, and South Africa have opened my eyes to the urgency of malaria research. This public health issue is of utmost importance and the possibility of finding novel anti-malarial drugs is the primary concern. It is my goal to establish a strong project foundation that can realistically contribute data and conclusions to the scientific community, especially in the area of malaria research. I hope to learn the appropriate skills, research methods, and have the opportunity to reach and educate a worldwide audience."
Microbiology and Cell Science
As a senior, I hope to extend my college education into Medical School along with the class of 2013. Immediately after graduation, I wish to broaden my real-life experiences and truly challenge myself. Hence, I will travel back to South Africa and Ghana and work under a non-profit governmental organization as a medical intern in the rural villages of Accra and Kumasi. In that year, it is my goal to establish a strong connection with the community, immerse myself in the culture, help in local hospitals, continue with my research of Plasmodium falciparum and help with other humanitarian efforts. In medical school, I hope to continue my research interests and focus my education in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology. In the future, I hope to work for the World Health Organization. My research interests are centered on plasmepsin 9 and 10 and their genomic importance in the asexual erythrocytic reproductive cycle of Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria's most deadly parasite infecting humans.
Academic and Other Awards
- University Scholars Program Scholarship (2011-2012)
- President's Honor Roll (2009, 2011)
- Dean's List (2010)
- Outstanding Leader by Sydney Lanier Program (2009-2011)
- The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (2008-2011)
- Alpha Epsilon Delta (2009-Present)
- Sydney Lanier Program
Sidney Lanier Program Director of Operations (2009-present) and Volunteer Coordinator (2008-2009) - Student-run organization under the direction of Dr. Stopka and Tony Delisle of the College of Human Health and Performance. The program's mission is to provide a safe and physically stimulating environment for students with intellectual disabilities of Alachua County's Sidney Lanier School. The students (ages 15-22) come to Sidney Lanier Program twice a week and participate in endurance exercises, weight lifting, functional training and recreational sports. The program aims not only to promote physical health and social awareness, but to emphasize the importance of diversity and acceptance, UF Shand's Cancer Hospital - ER Volunteer, and Relay for Life and Arts in Medicine - American Cancer Society and UF Shands.
Hobbies and Interests
- Beach, nature, wildlife, traveling, wakeboarding, boating, jet skiing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.
The Potential Anti-Malarial Target Plasmepsin 10 and its Genomic Importance and Function in the Asexual Erythrocytic Cycle of the Malaria Parasite, Plasmodium Falciparum
Malaria is an infectious disease plaguing various parts of the world, especially in underdeveloped areas in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.The disease is caused by apicomplexan protozoan parasites from the genus Plasmodium.P. falciparum is the most dangerous of the five species infecting humans.Due to the lack of vaccines and a growing resistance to anti-malarial drugs, this disease is often left untreated leading to high mortality rates.Rational drug development requires understanding the essential biochemical pathways in the parasite’s replication cycle.Plasmepsins are a class of aspartic proteases that play a role in the biochemical pathways.These enzymes are vital to the asexual erythrocytic cycle, making them potential anti-malarial drug targets.Genome sequencing has revealed ten genes that encode plasmepsins in P. falciparum and results of prior studies have focused attention on plasmepsins 9 (PfPM9) and 10 (PfPM10). The hypothesis is that PfPM10 is essential for the parasite’s survival during the asexual stage and is a target for the anti-malarial activity of HIV protease inhibitors (HIV PIs).HIV PIs inhibit the normal processing of critical polypeptide substrates in the erythrocytic stage.Identifying the timing of expression and sub-cellular location of PfPM10 will begin to define its role in the asexual cycle and help determine its potential substrates.I will test this hypothesis by pursuing the following aims: 1)Prepare, characterize, and purify monospecific polyclonal antibodies against PfPM10 from rabbit hyperimmune serum. 2)Optimize western blot techniques utilizing antibody preparations to specifically detect native PfPM10 in the context of all proteins expressed by asexual blood stage parasites. 3)Utilize antibody preparations obtained in Aim 1 to localize PfPM10 in parasitized erythrocytes using immunofluorescence assay techniques. 4)Synchronize the asexual division cycle to obtain parasites at 8hr intervals throughout the 48hr cycle and utilize western blot methods to detect and compare the steady-state level of PfPM10 at each time point.