Akua Nimarko

Majors: Biological Sciences & Psychology
“Expression Profile of Putative Receptors Involved in Xenobiotics Detection in Mouse Olfactory Epithelium”

Akua Nimarko

The main olfactory epithelium (MOE) detects environmental odors that are important for survival and transmits this information to the brain. To protect the MOE from environmental toxicants and pathogenic bacteria, cellular mechanisms to detect these xenobiotics are critical. However, data regarding such cellular mechanisms and the receptors involved is sparse. We have previously reported that bacterial lysate and chemical irritants stimulate populations of non-neuronal cells that reside in the MOE (Ogura et al. J. Neurophysiology, 2011). The main objective of this research project is to characterize the expression profile of potential receptors involved in xenobiotics detection through the use of real time quantitative polymerase chain reactions (RT-qPCR) and RNA in situ hybridization experiments in order to elucidate different biological pathways important to MOE protection and function.

How did you find your mentor for your research project?
Towards the end of my freshman year, I e-mailed professors whose research I found interesting. I met with Dr. Lin to discuss her research and possible projects and to my delight, she allowed me to join her lab.

Is this your first independent research project?
Dr. Lin’s lab was my first research experience. However, since joining her lab, I have done summer internships at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

How much time do you put into it?
I work about 10-15 hours a week.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
Dr. Lin mentioned the URA program to me and suggested that I apply.

How much did your mentor help you with the application?
My mentor was very helpful during the application process. She helped me edit the abstract and the URA application.

What has been the hardest part about your research?
The most challenging part about research is when experiments fail or I receive unexpected results. However, it is very rewarding when I am able to get the experiments to work or the unexpected results lead to significant findings.

What else are you involved in on campus?
I am a tutor for the Learning Resources Center and a Cell Biology teaching assistant. I am also an officer for the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) and UMBC Food Recovery Network.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
I advise that students look for labs early in their academic career. By getting involved in research early, students will have plenty of time to fully understand the research process, gain substantial research experience and possibly even complete an independent project. I also advise that students meet with different faculty members in order to explore different research interests.

What are your career goals?
I plan to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience.

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