Biomedical Science senior Abigail Delapenha recently attended the American Society for Southeastern Biologists conference to present her research on “Calcium signalling in Toxoplasma gondii”. She received the prestigious Lafayette Frederick Scholarship ($1200) which is awarded to only one outstanding undergraduate student each year. Abby, who graduates UMW this May, is headed to George Washington University Medical School.
The work Abby presented is part of a new collaboration between University of Mary Washington and the Center for Emerging and Global Tropical diseases (CTEGD) at University of Georgia that her UMW faculty mentor, Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Swati Agrawal, started last the summer at CTEGD. Abby and another UMW Biology student Emily Sizemore have been working hard over the past year characterizing two novel genes that are potentially involved in calcium ion regulation in Toxoplasma gondii – a process important for parasite invasion and egress from host cells. Emily was accepted to the PhD program at University of Georgia and is looking forward to learning and exploring more about parasite biology.
My current research in Dr. Swati Agrawal’s lab at UMW focuses on calcium regulation in Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasma gondii is an opportunistic apicomplexan parasite infecting humans and livestock. Infection in immunocompromised individuals can cause neurological damage and infection during pregnancy can lead to fetal death. It is classified as a Neglected tropical disease by the CDC, disproportionally affecting individuals in tropical and developing countries. This past March, I had the opportunity to present my research at ASB (Association of Southeastern Biologist) conference. I was awarded The ASB Lafayette Frederick Scholarship. This scholarship provides underrepresented undergraduate students an opportunity to expand their interests in research by providing funding to attend the annual ASB meeting. I am graduating this spring and will continue my education at George Washington School of Health and Medical Sciences. I plan to become a physician and help individuals in underrepresented communities receive access to quality healthcare. I am grateful for the opportunities and interaction with professionals in the field; they have helped me learn more about disease processes in various organisms, information that will help me in my medical school path. – Abigail Delapenha (Class of 2023)