Nicole Berry, ’19, wasn’t sure how she would fit in at Bridgewater State University until she discovered Assistant Professor Ken Adams’ lab. It has taken her places she never imagined she would go.
“I found my spot at Bridgewater and have loved it ever since,” she said. “It’s pushed me further than what I could have done before.”
The molecular biosciences publication FEBS Letters is featuring undergraduate research done by Nicole, classmate Jacquelyn LaVallee, and alumni Terrain Grant, Stephanie D'Angelo‐Early, Sergey Kletsov and Kimberly Abt. They worked with Adams and Professor Christopher Bloch, both of BSU’s Department of Biological Sciences; and Boston University Lecturer Mario Muscedere.
“You don’t come into college thinking you’re going to walk out with your name on a publication,” said Nicole, a biology and elementary education major from Avon.
Indeed, publication in specialty journals are the sine qua non for success as a serious researcher. Typically, such accomplishments are the domain of graduate and doctorate students, faculty and professional researchers.
Using predominately rat and mouse cell lines, the BSU group researched a protein called NAB2 that is not fully understood. In humans and other mammals, NAB2 regulates gene expression (whether genes are turned on or off). It also contributes to the development and maintenance of nerves outside of the brain.
The study added to scientists’ understanding of NAB2 by identifying a region in the protein called a “nuclear localization signal” that is required for NAB2 to enter a cell’s nucleus, where it regulates gene expression.
Jacquelyn remembers what she felt when she learned - via an early morning email – their work would be published.
“Overwhelming joy,” said the biology and chemistry major from Taunton. “Just like ‘Oh my gosh, it means someone cares about it.’”
Jacquelyn previously earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, where she studied exercise physiology. Research, she said, provides students critical skills that help them compete for jobs.
“Anything outside of school really requires a deeper understanding of the sciences and a good hands-on knowledge of what biology is all about,” said Jacquelyn, a sergeant in the National Guard who also works at Massachusetts General Hospital and hopes to attend graduate school.
Research allows students to intensively study a given problem in ways they cannot in a class that only meets a couple times a week, Adams said. He praised the Office of Undergraduate Research and its Adrian Tinsley Program for funding the NAB2 project.
“I really like doing research and I am dependent on the undergrads just as they are dependent on me to get this done,” he said.
Nicole, who hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists as a teacher, said BSU research helped her succeed at a Mass General Hospital internship in a lab focused on improving Alzheimer’s disease treatment.
“It was a really amazing experience,” she said. “I never thought I would even have that opportunity.” (Photos by Bailey Cormier, ’22, University News & Video)
Photo captions: (Top) Assistant Professor Ken Adams, left, and students Nicole Berry and Jacquelyn LaVallee in the lab. (Below) Nicole Berry works inside a tissue culture hood, which keeps contaminants out of cells.