Virginia Vasquez-Rios

ECU undergraduate researcher Virginia Vasquez-Rios is examining proteins that could affect stem cell development.

Major: Biology

Mentors: Dr. Elizabeth Ables

Department: Biology

Project Title: “Tnpo-SR Regulates Germline Stem Cell Proliferation”

Virgina’s project investigates the role of Tnpo-SR, a nucleocytoplasmic transport protein thought to control germ cell fate and proliferation. Her lab previously identified Tnpo-SR in a reverse genetic screen for genes that may control germ cell proliferation. She believes that Tnpo-SR regulates germline stem cell self-renewal and proliferation, and the proliferation of early germ cells.

How did you get involved in undergraduate research?

Since my very first days at ECU, I knew that I wanted to get involved with scientific research. I wanted to ask questions and use the knowledge I acquired in the classroom for bigger, real-life applications. During my freshman year, I’d look up professors and email them if I was interested in their research projects, respond to the biology undergraduate emails which offered research positions, and apply to summer research programs. I was finally accepted into a research position at Brody my sophomore year which allowed me to gain experience and eventually pursue research in Dr. Ables’ lab.

Why did you choose your research topic?

As a biology major with a concentration in molecular cell biology, I wanted to conduct research in a lab that explored topics in cell and developmental biology. I knew that Dr. Ables allowed undergrads the opportunity to conduct this kind of research in fruit fly cells, specifically in stem cell populations. I chose the topic of studying germline stem cells in fruit fly ovaries because I believe that a better understanding of how stem cells work can be important for health care and science overall.

What’s been your favorite part of conducting undergraduate research?

My absolute favorite part of conducting research has been learning all the specific techniques that my research requires, such as dissecting and using the confocal microscope.

What’s your ultimate goal or accomplishment that you hope your research will help you achieve?

So far, being a part of undergraduate research has pushed me to become more organized and goal oriented. Research has pushed me to push myself and hold myself accountable for my own progress and results. I hope that these qualities continue to be strengthened.  I also hope that during my time with the Ables lab, I can collect enough data and new information so that others after me can keep learning about germline stem cells and development.

Do you have any advice for other students interested in conducting undergraduate research?

My best advice for those undergrads interested in conducting research is to apply to as many opportunities as you can early on. Try to look for and reach out to research labs that are studying a topic that truly piques your interest and that you are passionate about. And lastly, research is what you make of it. Put in your all and you won’t be disappointed.