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Cheyenne’s Kelsea Zukauckas Receives Wyoming INBRE Transition Fellowship

December 15, 2015
two women working in lab
Kelsea Zukauckas, left, conducts research with Amy Navratil, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Zoology and Physiology. Zukauckas is one of nine Wyoming community college students who received Wyoming INBRE Transition Fellowships to continue their studies at the University of Wyoming. (UW Photo)

Kelsea Zukauckas has been learning what it takes to be a researcher in the field of biomedical sciences. A Wyoming INBRE Transition Fellowship will allow her to continue her research while studying at the University of Wyoming.

“I am graciously honored and humbled that Wyoming INBRE chose me to be a transition fellow,” says Zukauckas, from Cheyenne. “Wyoming INBRE gives me an opportunity to experience new projects and grow as a scientist and person. With the continuance of research, I am allowed to apply concepts I have learned in the classroom to real-life scenarios in the lab.”

Zukauckas earned her associate of science degree in biology and pre-pharmacy from Laramie County Community College. While there, she learned about the Wyoming INBRE program and worked on an INBRE-funded project.

“Being involved with Wyoming INBRE for the past two years has really opened my eyes to the opportunities in research, and the persistence and patience it takes to be a researcher,” Zukauckas says.  “I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a scientist at my community college under the watchful eyes of Dr. Ami Wangeline and Dr. Zachary Roehrs.”

Zukauckas is one of nine students from Wyoming’s community colleges who received Wyoming INBRE Transition Fellowships to study and conduct research at UW.

Through a competitive selection process, the Wyoming IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program awards transition fellowships to Wyoming community college students who transfer to UW to pursue bachelor’s degrees in biomedical-related disciplines.

For two years, students receive $2,500 each semester to study and receive training in UW research laboratories. There also is the possibility of support through the Wyoming INBRE Undergraduate Summer Fellowship Program that provides $3,500 for the summer, says Scott Seville, Wyoming INBRE principal investigator and program director.

Students must maintain full-time enrollment and at least a 3.0 GPA while being supported. They must commit to working about 10 hours per week in a laboratory on a mentored independent research project. They also are required to attend INBRE seminars and events as their course schedules allow, and present results of their research at the annual Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day.

“To facilitate the transition from their colleges to the university, junior and senior transition fellows meet regularly with the INBRE personnel to discuss and address transition challenges, share experiences and engage in a supportive community of student scholars,” Seville says.

Zukauckas, a first-year student in the Doctor of Pharmacy program, guided by her faculty mentor Amy Navratil, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Zoology and Physiology, is researching polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). She is studying different signaling proteins on cells exposed with different hormones.

“I hope to learn and grow as a researcher at UW,” Zukauckas says. “With the other colleagues I work with in the laboratory, I hope to explore more areas of PCOS, and be able to produce more results of the underlying causes of the disease.”

Wyoming, with UW as the lead institution, is one of 23 states and Puerto Rico funded by the National Institutes of Health INBRE program. INBRE funding is intended to enhance biomedical research capacity; expand and strengthen the research capabilities of biomedical faculty; and provide access to biomedical resources for promising undergraduate students throughout the eligible states.

Other transition fellows, listed by hometowns and community colleges, are:

Cheyenne -- Samantha Haller, Laramie County Community College, and Hannah Jernigan, Sheridan College.

Laramie -- Jessica Marsh, Laramie County Community College.

Rawlins -- Rebecca Iacovetto, Central Wyoming College.

Reliance -- Denise De Loera, Western Wyoming Community College.

Riverton -- Sara Cisneros and Philip Gard, Central Wyoming College.

Rock Springs -- Andrea Sanchez Walk, Western Wyoming Community College.

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