Virginia Bioinformatics Institute is hosting two rising seniors this summer as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, sponsored by the Fralin Life Science Institute. Both Gloria Trivitt and Helen Clark are working to uncover the mysteries of invasive fungal infection in the laboratory of Shiv Kale, research faculty member at the institute.

During their summer research, the undergraduates will study how fungi invade a susceptible host and ultimately cause disease. Kale’s lab is focused on discovering and characterizing both pathogen and host components that lead to respiratory fungal infection by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. The Kale lab has an emphasis in translating such fundamental discoveries into novel therapeutics.

"Helen and Gloria have done a great job excelling in their research and academic responsibilities. [The fellowship] provides them with a summer of focused and continuous research. The professional development courses and associated [Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship] events truly complete the experience. As their faculty mentor, I enjoy facilitating the scientific growth and development of two very bright individuals," said Kale.

Gloria Trivitt of Roanoke, Va., is majoring in biological sciences, an interest that began in high school. She started working in the Kale Laboratory especially after learning about bioinformatics in a class on cell and molecular biology. Trivitt will be focusing on how a certain type of protein binds phospholipids, which are found in the membranes of cells. Said Trivitt, "Because of SURF, I can finally fully engage and do what I want to do. … I’m really excited that I get to work full time in a lab."

Helen Clark of Annandale, Va., is majoring in biochemistry. She worked at the National Institutes of Health for a summer, which made her very interested in working in a biochemistry wet lab. Helen will study how fungal spores are taken into the nasal and lung passages and how those spores then cause infection. "[The fellowship] is going to be extremely beneficial to my future. … I can just focus on my research," Clark said.

See Gloria and Helen talk about what the program means to them:

During the summer of 2013, more than 250 students are taking part in undergraduate research experiences through more than a dozen programs on campus. The Office of Undergraduate Research is coordinating workshops and activities for the programs' participants through the summer. Students will present their work at the Virginia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium on Wednesday, July 31.



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