An Inquiring Mind

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Member Profiles

An Inquiring Mind

From cancer to meteoroids, Sigma Pi Sigma member Jehnae Linkins, Lincoln University ‘14, has explored several fields of research

Jehnae (center) poses with Dr. Dean Swinton (left) and Dr. Norman Wagner (right) in front of a poster documenting her work on the NASA project. Photo courtesy of Jehnae Linkins.

How did you get started in research?

During my freshman year at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, I was trying to figure out exactly what type of research I wanted to get into. My college had many seminars in which internships were offered, but nothing really jumped out at me. Then David Lubaroff from the University of Iowa in Iowa City came to speak to the students about U of I’s prostate cancer research program. I was very intrigued by the program, so I applied and was accepted.

One of my peers had gone to the same internship during his freshman year; he said it was the best research opportunity he had been a part of. Seven other students in my classes were accepted to the program, so I knew people that were going.

I worked on a project to understand the processes that cause multiple myeloma cells to express high levels of the Forkhead box protein M1 (FOXM1), a protein that is considered to be a good target for anticancer drugs. Whether I was culturing cells or conducting a lentiviral experiment, I was always asking how to combat this protein. The answer seemed so simple at times: just make stronger antibodies or treat the cancer right at the source. But there were so many variables that had to be taken into consideration. Being on the cutting edge of cancer research is a stimulating experience. It takes a lot of patience, but being able to help others is the biggest reward of all.

What opportunities did this research create for you?

After the completion of this summer research, all of the interns participated in a science fair at our school. I was nervous, even though I was presenting in front of my peers, but I did a great job. I won second place in the cancer biology category. After the science fair, I applied to different conferences and was invited to present at the Biomedical Engineering Society Career Conference and at the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) Conference in New Orleans. Both of these opportunities opened more doors for me to meet with other students and faculty who were interested in the same field of study. Presenting was very nerve-racking for me, because I naturally talk very fast. I had to practice slowing down my speech so that others would understand what I was saying.

What other projects have you been involved with?

In the summer of 2014, I did research at the University of Delaware in Newark. This project had nothing to do with cancer. It was aimed at developing composite materials for spacecraft to provide extra protection from micrometeoroids and orbital debris impact. This experience itself had an impact because it opened my eyes to more of an engineering outlook. The academic and social atmosphere of this institution left a lasting positive impression on me.

Experiencing two very different internships broadened my perspective on the applications of science. Now, during the school year, I am working on yet another kind of project that mostly involves coding. The wide range of experiences I have had helped me to realize that I want my career to focus on biomolecular engineering.

What do you do for fun?

When I’m not in the lab doing work, I like to crochet and knit. I recently completed my first two projects, an infinity scarf and a beanie hat to match. I am also obsessed with the old Transformers cartoon. My room is decked out in Transformers toys.

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