"I applied to the Scholars Program so that I could be given the opportunity to become an experienced scientist that is prepared for graduate school. My goals for this year are to learn new techniques in the lab and to publish the results that we've already received."
I am interested in developmental biology and how developmental processes evolved.
Academic and Other Awards
- University Scholars Program Scholarship (2011-2012)
- Bucky Bent Scholarship (2009)
- West Boca Raton Medical Volunteer Auxiliary Scholarship (2009)
- Comcast Leadership Scholarship (2009)
- YMCA Scholarship (2009)
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science for Life Undergraduate Research Award (2010)
- EDEN Undergraduate Research Internship (2011)
- President's Honor Roll (2009-2010)
- Dean's List (2009-2011)
- UF Friends for Life of America
Through "Friends for Life of America" I volunteer at places like Shands pediatrics and Winn Dixie's Hope Lodge. We also volunteer our time to putting on events on the UF campus to raise money and awareness.
Hobbies and Interests
- Canoeing, kayaking, and hiking.
Deep Conservation of the Genetic Program for Cartilage Development: The Mechanism of Invertebrate Chondrogenesis
Cartilage has been proposed to be a defining character of vertebrates, however this tissue type has evolved independently in a number of invertebrate lineages, including cephalopods, arthropods and sabellid polychaete worms. Studies of vertebrate chondrogenesis have revealed critical proteins for the structure of the cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) and for the regulation of cartilage formation. Type II collagen, for instance, is the major structural protein in the cartilage ECM and is encoded by the Collagen2a1 gene. Members of SoxE and SoxD families of transcription factors directly regulate expression of Collagen2a1, and are essential for chondrogenesis. Although the mechanisms of vertebrate chondrogenesis have been studied extensively, little is known about how this gene network was assembled during evolution. To test the hypothesis that invertebrates and vertebrates use a common genetic program to build cartilaginous tissues, we cloned and examined the expression of orthologs of Collagen2a1, SoxE and SoxD from the cephalopod Sepia pharaonis and the horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus. Phylogenetic analysis confirms the orthology of these genes to the vertebrate ColA, SoxE and SoxD families. Analysis of their expression patterns during invertebrate cartilage development shows that Clade A collagen and Sox genes are expressed in prechondrogenic cells of cephalopod and arthropod embryos. The results suggest that the independent evolution of cartilage in these taxa was facilitated by a deeply conserved genetic program for chondrogenesis, and that this circuit predates the divergence of the lineages leading to cephalopods, arthropods and vertebrates.