As a child, I grew up wanting to study at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a scientist like my grandmother. Today I am proud to say I am close to achieving my dream due to UTMB’s standards of academic excellence, opportunities to develop critical leadership skills, and exposure to novel experimental techniques, all of which have transformed me into a successful graduate researcher. As a Cell Biology student conducting research in the perinatal research department, I have been privileged to conduct research internships (e.g., Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M), present my findings at international and national conferences, publish multiple first author manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, and help organize a club related to our tissue of interest (i.e., fetal membranes).
With the help of my mentor, Dr. Ramkumar Menon, and the Menon LaboratoryI used my knowledge of ovarian, breast, and lung cancer epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and metastases from my undergraduate research, and adapted these cancer phenotypes to the study of gestational tissue. As the innermost lining of the intra uterine cavity and a structural barrier, the fetal membranes provide homeostasis critical for successful maintenance of pregnancy. My ongoing doctoral research is focused on the mechanistic processes of fetal membrane remodeling (EMT ß à MET) throughout gestation and its dysregulation at term. Additionally, with the use of advanced microscopy techniques, I discovered sites of fetal membrane remodeling termed "microfractures" which contribute to membrane weakening and are associated with the onset of labor (Video). The results from my research will be highly relevant in the field of reproduction, as they will provide new details into the workings of complex biological systems functioning together to maintain pregnancy. Furthermore, these studies allow for further explorations into the development of treatments to prevent preterm birth and adverse pregnancy outcomes.