For her Summer Fellows research project, Naya Martin is exploring the gut microbiome, or microorganism, of Antarctic ice fishes with the hopes of identifying what bacteria reside there and the role they play in the microbiome.
“These ice fishes are unique in that they are naturally anemic due to their lack of hemoglobin, yet they feed primarily on krill, small shrimplike planktonic crustaceans, which provide large quantities of iron to their diet,” said Martin. “We hypothesize that the gut microbiome of these ice fishes functions to aid in the digestion of iron. We are utilizing bioinformatics tools to help us classify the DNA.”
Martin is a senior biochemistry major with a minor in mathematics. Her involvement on campus is extensive, as she plays for the women’s soccer team, serves as a resident assistant, and is involved with the American Chemical Society, CHAMPS, Student Government, the Chinese Club, the Women’s Leadership Conference, the Mathematics Association of America, Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority, and Panhellenic Council.
“I decided to research this topic when Dr. Gordon approached me with the opportunity to be a part of cutting-edge research,” said Martin. “The project is challenging me to move out of my comfort zone as I dabble in the field of computer science.”
Martin is working with Dr. Stuart Gordon, assistant professor of biology, for her research. Dr. Gordon received a grant from the South Carolina IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence to do a pilot bioinformatics study that funds the DNA sequencing and some supplies for the project.
“The goals of the project are to help Naya become competent n the use of some sophisticated analysis tools and to characterize the fish gut microbiome in a couple of basic ways,” said Dr. Gordon. “We are asking, what microbes are there and what are they doing, or how do they live in the gut of an anemic fish?”
According to Dr. Gordon, this research is important because not much is know about how these unique fishes are affected by their microbiomes. Their unique physiology is a model for studying medically relevant conditions such as anemia and osteoporosis in humans.
“This research is important to me because I am convinced that undergraduates can do meaningful research and make contributions to scientific knowledge,” said Dr. Gordon. “I am committed to mentoring such research here at PC.”
Martin hopes to attend medical school once she graduates, and she believes that her research project will help her achieve that goal. “This research is important to me because I have been given the opportunity to find significant information and build knowledge within the science community. My goal for this summer is to make a contribution to the developing knowledge of microbes.”
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