HomepageBiologyHonors Spotlight Star: Alexa Alessandrini

Honors Spotlight Star: Alexa Alessandrini

Honors student Alexa Alessandrini, under the mentorship of Dr. Rebecca Lyczak completed her project titled “The role of MBK-2 and CDK-1 in oocytes and early embryos of pam-1 mutant C. elegans.”

1.Who’s lab are you in?

I’m in Dr. Lyczak’s lab.

2. What is the title of your research?

The role of MBK-2 and CDK-1 in oocytes and early embryos of pam-1 mutant C. elegans.

3. Give a brief summary of your research.

The puromycin-sensitive aminopeptidase, PAM-1, is needed for meiotic exit and anteroposterior axis formation in early Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. It is also involved in oocyte maturation and the oocyte-to-embryo transition. How PAM-1 regulates these activities remains unknown, and my research investigates two proteins, CDK-1 and MBK-2, and how they interact with PAM-1. Specifically, I am studying if a loss of CDK-1 by RNAi affects pam-1 mutant C. elegans differently than wildtype C. elegans and where MBK-2 localizes during the oocyte-to-embryo transition in wildtype and pam-1 mutants.

4. What was your motive for joining a research lab?

I have been interested in genetics since 7th grade when we were briefly introduced to genetics. During my sophomore year at Ursinus, I took Genetics with Dr. Lyczak and really enjoyed her class. When I was interested in joining a research lab at the end of the spring semester during my sophomore year, I asked Dr. Lyczak about her research and if I could join her lab.

5. How has participating in research affected your college experience?

Participating in research has positively impacted my Ursinus experience. Through research, I have gained hands-on experience with various laboratory techniques and projects. I have also refined my skills regarding scientific literature comprehension, scientific writing, and the presentation of results.

6. What has been the highlight of your research?

The highlight of my research has been successfully created my own strain of C. elegans! To investigate which phase of the cell cycle MBK-2 breakdown occurs during, I crossed C. elegans with GFP tagged with MBK-2 and C. elegans with GFP tagged to histones to create a strain that contains both.

7. What are your future plans for after graduation?

I am currently applying to jobs in the fields of biotechnology and research. Eventually, I would like to pursue a master’s degree, and, hopefully, entering the workforce beforehand will give me more insight into which programs to consider.

8. Any words of wisdom for perspective future researchers?

Take advantage of the great research opportunities on campus! Because of Ursinus’s small size, it is easy to get involved in research that you’re interested in.

9. Are there any fellow researchers or mentors you would like to thank?

I’d like to thank Dr. Lyczak for welcoming me into her lab and providing me with the opportunity to pursue honors research. I’d also like to thank Madison Smith and Crissy Feathers for aiding in data collection, as well as my fellow honors researchers, Brooke Adams, Sarah Bell, and Ilyssa Marsh, and our lab tech, Aidan, for their support!

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