Name: Kayce Singer
Year in school: Senior
Advisor and committee members: Life sciences professor Eduardo Robleto (faculty advisor), math and Honors professor Bryan Bornholdt (Honors advisor), and biochemistry professor Bryan Spangelo (committee member)
I chose UNLV so I could stay close to my family and save money for medical school, because it’s my dream to go someday. Given my interests in medicine, I took the common route as an undergraduate and studied biology. Although it was hard at first, I came to love many different fields in biology. But what really caught my attention was microbiology and bacterial pathogenesis.
I joined professor Robleto’s microbial genetics lab my senior year and started my own project while participating in the Research and Creative Honors Program. I thought this might be the only chance I would have to do wet lab research.
Right when I started in the lab, I knew I’d made the right choice. All of my biology and chemistry classes started to make sense and come together because of the work I was doing there, and it's made me realize how much I've learned at UNLV. The hands-on experience I’ve gained in the lab, being able to design my own experiments, and analyzing data myself are all irreplaceable. Nothing has helped me to understand — and love — biology more.
In the Robleto Lab, I’ve been studying the mfd gene, which codes for the mutation frequency decline protein. Mfd is known to affect the rate at which a microbial population — in this case, a probiotic bacterial species called Bacillus subtilis — adapts and mutates its DNA in conditions of environmental stress.
For my thesis specifically, I’m investigating a new role of mfd. I want to know if this factor is important for cells to survive exposure to reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are chemicals that contain oxygen intermediates that damage cell components. In the context of a pathogenic infection, bacteria commonly face ROS as part of the host immune response, which results in bacterial killing and infection clearing. Some bacteria, however, have found ways to withstand or even evade this immune response and continue to infect the host.
If the mfd gene is important for bacteria to survive ROS, then this factor can be targeted by drugs and mitigate infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a problem that’s grown more prevalent in recent years. That would be a really exciting contribution to the scientific community — and one that I was able to be part of.