Research Department: Reproductive Sciences/ OB-GYN Graduation Date: May 2018
Abstract: Cervical insufficiency is a risk factor for preterm birth characterized by premature dilation of the cervix in the absence of uterine contractions. Structural organization of fibrillar collagen in the extracellular matrix (ECM) determines the biomechanical properties of the cervix. The formation of these collagen fibers (fibrillogenisis)f is a complex process that is regulated in part by small leucine rich proteoglycans (SLRPs). The focus of this study was to determine if the Class II SLRPs Fibromodulin and Lumican regulate collagen fibrillogenesis and ultimately cervical function during pregnancy, parturition and post-partum repair.
"Not only did being a Green Fellow provide me with a truly immersive experience for what full-time research is like, but it also allowed me to attend unique presentations and talks that provided me a wholesome understanding of various research fields and hot topics."
What does research mean to you? Throughout grade school I knew that I enjoyed learning about science, but I didn’t know what it meant to apply this knowledge as a scientist. Only after starting at UTD did I see what research could be. Since my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to be an undergraduate researcher at NSERL. However, this initial exposure would not have prepared me for a career in research. I had always heard about the Green Fellows program and seen their posters across campus. Having heard much about the opportunities and facilities at UTSW, I applied to be a Green Fellow because I wanted to expand my skills and test my abilities to see if I would really enjoy a career in full-time research.
Tell us about your journey. Orientation was really exciting, because it felt like the program was finally starting and coming together. At the time, I was still torn between pursing an MD or choosing the PhD route, and I was relying on my Green Fellows experience to help me choose. When picking labs, I found myself drawn to research in development, hormonal regulation, and cellular functioning. I ended up working in the OB/GYN department, which surprisingly served as a great balance of all of these fields. I knew very little about OB/GYN and even less about my specific project. However, I kept an open mind and followed my mentor’s guidance, and soon enough I was able to confidently schedule my own experiments and present my work to the lab. At orientation, we heard multiple times that the learning curve is very steep. Even after being aware of this, I was still thrown off when it took me multiple attempts to correctly perform certain experiments, like Western Blotting.
Advice for Future Green Fellows
Work on apps as early as possible. Get into contact with old Green Fellows with any questions you have – none of the present or former Fellows have ever hesitated to give prospective students advice! Even while applying, before hearing any acceptances/rejections, have research topics/techniques in mind that you really actually want to work on. UTSW has so, so many different types of labs in a wide variety of fields. I strongly recommend looking through the different departments and lab pages/information as soon as possible. Also keep in mind what kind of setting you want to work in. In addition to research focus/topic, keep an eye on various other factors that may indicate how the lab dynamic is (i.e. when was the lab page last updated? How many graduate students does the lab have? How many post docs/technicians/staff does the lab have?)