Honors Spotlight Star: Courtney Burns
1. Whose lab are you in?
- Dr Jennifer King
2. What is the title of your research?
- The Modulation of SARS-CoV-2 S1 Glycoprotein on the Cytokine Activity of Microglia Cells
3. Give a brief summary of your research?
- SARS-CoV-2 has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and uses the spike 1 protein (S1) to interact with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to result in different cellular responses. Once within the central nervous system, SARS-CoV-2 commonly results in an abundant release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, known as the cytokine storm, which can cause inflammation. Microglia are a key regulator in this inflammatory and immune response through the release of these cytokines. Our study utilizes BV-2 microglia cells to identify the modulation of cytokine release upon infection with the S1 glycoprotein.
4. What was your motive for joining a research lab?
- I had Dr. King as a freshman in Bio-101 Lab and she told us on the first day of class that it is important to get involved and reach out to professors for opportunities. Immediately after class, I read about the research of the professors in the Biology department and found Dr. King’s research to be very interesting. I pursued the opportunity, and it was the best decision of my undergraduate career. I learned about my exceeding enthusiasm to do research and contribute to science.
5. How has participating in research affected your college experience?
- My participation in research is one of the many highlights of being at Ursinus. I started my research with Dr. King as a volunteer observer my first semester at Ursinus. I have since progressed and have become an honors research student and then a Post-Bacc Research Assistant. The opportunity to work in her research lab, not only exposed me to a research setting but also allowed me to think more critically and apply my knowledge in the lab to my coursework at Ursinus. My experience has shown me that I am capable of contributing to science, which motivates me set high goals for myself and pushes me to attain them.
6. What has been the highlight of your research?
- Last semester I was finishing up my honors research project. It was an amazing feeling to organize all the data we have collected and see it be integrated in a way that allows you to see the bigger picture of why we are doing the research. Behind the many hours of cell maintenance, arrays, and data analysis, it was rewarding to know that my efforts may one day help advance the scientific field and contribute to a better understanding of COVID-19 and related diseases.
7. What are your future for after graduation?
- I graduated a semester early from Ursinus, so I am no longer a student. I did accept a Research Assistant job to continue with my honors research in Dr. King’s lab. I also applied to medical schools with the goal of becoming a doctor in infectious diseases.
8. Any words of wisdom for prospective future researchers?
- One piece of advice that I think is crucial to prospective student researchers is to start early and be persistent. I reached out to Dr. King my first week of classes as a freshman at Ursinus, and she allowed me to observe other research students in her lab. Being a first-year student, I had limited lab experience, so I learned through the help of other research students. It was nerve-racking to be a freshman in a research lab, but it allowed me to start forming the foundation of my research at Ursinus early. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors about research and continue to stay with it, even if it is challenging in the beginning.
9. Are there any fellow researchers or mentors you would like to thank?
- I would like to thank Dr. King for providing me with amazing opportunities and allowing me to continue with them throughout my academic career. Being in Dr. King’s lab has truly allowed me to grow academically and personally. I would also like to thank Yoonjung Kim (’19) and Nyrobi Barnes (’20) for not only teaching me about lab procedures, but also inspiring me to continue research throughout my time at Ursinus. I would also like to thank Tatiana Swindell, Carly Rodriguez, Josh Belder, Mekha Varghase, and Melanie DeRosa for helping with data collection and lab maintenance.