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Cheyenne UW Student Receives Prestigious Internship

January 10, 2019
head portrait of a man
University of Wyoming student Jelard Aquino, from Cheyenne, received a three-month research internship with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama beginning in February. (Renegade Images Photo)

University of Wyoming student Jelard Aquino, from Cheyenne, received a three-month research internship with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama beginning in February.

Aquino, a senior physiology major, is a McNair Scholar and National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Wyoming IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Transition Fellow at UW.

Through the McNair Scholars and NIH INBRE programs, Aquino has conducted research with his UW faculty mentor, Vikram Chhatre, a molecular biology research scientist, on a project titled “Comparative Mega-Analysis of Gene Expression in Blister Rust Infected Five-Needle Pines.”

Aquino will conduct research with Owen McMillan and Krzysztof Kozak on butterfly speciation genomics at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).

“The goal of this study at STRI is to identify genes that help butterflies adapt to different environments and, thus, become different species,” Aquino says. “Ultimately, this project will help contribute to the Smithsonian’s goal of understanding the Earth’s biodiversity by explaining the richness of insect life in the largest biodiversity hotspot.”

He adds that while living in Maryland as a child, he explored the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and learned about evolutionary processes. This sparked an interest in evolution and genetics.

Aquino also has a special interest in the origin of humans, and he ultimately plans to conduct biomedical genetics research for prevention of disease when he pursues his doctoral degree.

About McNair Scholars and NIH INBRE Programs

The UW McNair Scholars Program provides opportunities for research and other scholarly activities, a paid summer research internship, tutoring, travel support to conferences, academic counseling and assistance in admission for enrollment in graduate programs.

INBRE funding enhances biomedical research capacity, expands and strengthens the research capabilities of biomedical faculty, and provides access to biomedical resources for promising undergraduate students.

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