Honors Spotlight Star: Connor Loomis

Connor Loomis (’20), a Biology major, is currently conducting research with Dr. Jennifer Round about characterizing the interactions of proteins.

Connor Loomis was asked some questions about his lab experience at Ursinus.

Q: Whose lab you are in?

A: Dr. Jennifer Round.

Q: What is the title of your research?

A: Characterizing the Interaction of MAGUK Scaffold Protein PSD-95 With Synaptic Adhesion Protein Slitrk2.

Q: Can you explain your project using 3-10 sentences in lay-people terms so that a non-scientist could understand it?

A: Our lab looks to better understand how the nervous system develops. This relies heavily on the formation of connections or synapses between neurons, the cells of the nervous system. Synapses are held or “glued” together by an array of synaptic adhesion proteins; we focus on one particular family of them called Slitrks. Previously, our lab found that Slitrk2 binds with PSD-95, a scaffolding protein also found at synapses. Therefore, my project focuses on determining the important parts of Slitrk2 and PSD-95 that allow them to interact. This research is important because many disorders of the nervous system such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have been linked to improper synapse formation.

Q: What are your anticipated plans following graduation?

A: Upon graduating from Ursinus, I will receive my PA teaching certificate in secondary biology; therefore, I will be pursuing a position as a biology teacher. I also want to eventually attend graduate school and receive a PhD in biology, working toward becoming a college professor potentially. I want both biology and education to be in my career.

Q: What do you think is the most challenging part of doing research?

A: The most challenging part of research is that experiments often fail many times before they actually work. It is easy to become frustrated with yourself, but you need to continue to problem solve and adjust your experiments until you reach your goal.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of doing research?

A: The most rewarding part of research is the hard work paying off and being able to finally present your research. In that moment, it is nice to take a step back and be say “Wow, I did that, and I am proud of it.”

Q: Do you have a special message for your research mentor?

A: I have to thank Dr. Round for my entire Ursinus research experience. She brought me into the lab as a sophomore and has mentored me all the way through honors. She has taught me practically everything I know in the lab and continued to push me to be the best student I can be.

Q: What will you miss about your dept./major when you graduate?

A: When I leave the department, I will miss the passion for biology that every professor brought to their class. Whether it was Dr. Finney talking about soil in my ecology capstone or Dr. Bailey showing her love for human physiology, the professors want to make our learning experience meaningful and worthwhile. I wanted to go to class not just for the grade, but to genuinely learn.