Tracy Still ('13, Biology)

Tracy Still What do you do for your undergraduate research?

I assist Dr. Stephen Kinsey and his graduate student Whitney Wilson in their research to understand the role of resveratrol on muscle growth and protein turnover in Southern flounder. Research has shown that resveratrol has anti-mutagenic and anti-inflammatory effects, and that it is a powerful antioxidant agent that scavenges reactive oxygen species such as hydroxyl radicals, superoxide radicals, and hydrogen peroxide radicals that are associated with aging and cell stress. However, very little is known about resveratrol’s antioxidant effects on muscle and its role in regulating animal growth, particularly in fish.  My DIS project focused on raising a diet induced resveratrol treatment group and a control group of flounder. Tissue and blood samples were then collected at specified time intervals. The samples were then analyzed to determine the effects on muscle growth and oxidative damage in the tissues.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

I have enjoyed all of my hands on biology and chemistry lab work at UNCW. I thought working with a professor would allow me to continue with hands on research. I also wanted to have the opportunity to learn new techniques and train on equipment that I had only previously been exposed to in lecture halls. I believe the more exposure I have to research will make me a more desirable potential employee candidate.

How did you start your research project?

I began my research my senior year at UNCW. I approached Dr. Kinsey to inquire if he could use any assistant with ongoing research. I informed him that I was eager to learn, and have been fascinated on how the muscular system works. Dr. Kinsey agreed to take me on as a lab assistant. My first semester mainly focused on raising fish to ensure we had healthy specimens and collecting tissue and blood samples at predetermined times. My second semester encompassed analyzing the samples to determine the effects of dietary resveratrol in fish muscle growth.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

I did have a lot of fun with this research. The first semester was mainly grunt work maintaining fish, which was ok. However, the second semester, primarily data analysis, made the first semester worthwhile. It was rewarding to see a project from start to finish. It allowed me to put all of the pieces together, and trouble shoot when the process produced unexpected results.

It isn’t required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

This experience has made me appreciate all the work that goes into developing drugs for human treatment. Nothing is cut and dry. Things don’t always work out. Tests have to be redone to produce better results, or you have to come up with a better method of analysis. I learned firsthand why developing a product takes as long as it does. Before I began this project, I wanted to go into clinical research, focusing on drug development. But I was unsure of what aspect to pursue. I know now that ideally I would like focus on clinical animal trials for future products.

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

I received a UNCW CSURF research supplies grant in the fall of 2013.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

After UNCW I plan to pursue a research position in the pharmaceutical industry.

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