Student helps expand bladder cancer research

Student Jessica Nix has experienced far more research than she expected as an undergraduate at UNG. Nix and former biology faculty member Dr. Shannon Kispert investigated phospholipase A2 (PLA2) pathway proteins, which they believed can become conducive to tumor growth after exposure to cigarette smoke.

“With this study we hypothesized that we would see a significant increase in the PLA2 pathway proteins when compared to nonsmokers,” Nix said. “This meant that these studies could provide potential therapeutic targets for cigarette-smoke-induced tumorigenesis and progression.”

Nix, a senior pursuing a degree in biology who is on an S-STEM Scholarship that offers a stipend of $4,362 per school year, welcomed the opportunity.

“Working in a lab all day may seem boring to others, but it’s the quest for the answer that keeps me zeroed in. The method we use for immunohistochemistry has a lot of procedures, but when performing them I feel like a real scientist,” Nix said. “Many of us suffer from impostor syndrome, myself included, but when I do research it feels like I get a little more confident and can express myself more professionally each time.”

Nix presented her work at the Baylor University McNair Research Conference in September and at UNG’s inaugural S-STEM Conference in November. She also plans to attend the Experimental Biology 2020 Annual Meeting set for April 4-7 in San Diego. Nix previously presented at the 2018 Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference, UNG’s 2019 Annual Research Conference, the April 2019 Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB) annual meeting, and the April 2019 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Nix is also part of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program and receives a monthly stipend for continued research from the program that awards grants to prepare students for doctoral study.

Nix secured grants of nearly $1,400 from groups including Tri Beta, a biology honor society to which Nix belongs on UNG’s Gainesville Campus, and UNG’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities to support both the research and her presentations on it.

She ultimately wants to pursue a doctorate in biomedical science.

“I can take all this information that I’ve learned and have a leg up on other students whenever I enter my doctoral program because I have so much benchwork research,” Nix said.

She also passes on that knowledge and assists biology majors in finding a research team or starting a new research project.

“Since biology fields are becoming more and more competitive, having a research background is essential in competing for a spot in graduate programs,” Nix said. “My aim is to take these new students and help foster professional techniques like grant writing, abstract writing, creating poster presentations, and so much more.”