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Student Profile in Juvenile Schistosoma Mansoni

Sarah Cobb

Cell & Molecular Biology Graduate Program

Mentor: James J. Collins, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Bioclogical Sciences
Undergraduate Institution: Le Moyne College
Hometown: Syracuse, NY

Awards/Fellowships: Graduate: NIH T32 Molecular Microbiology training grant Undergraduate: McDevitt Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Natural Science; The William F.J. Ryan Medal in Junior Pure Science; Amgen Scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sarah Cobb

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

I have always been interested in everything that is going on around me, constantly asking anyone who would answer me a million questions. Although, it wasn’t until I was in college that I found my passion for scientific research. Once I began taking laboratory sections for my biology courses, I found how exciting it is to be able to carry out the experiments to answer my own burning questions. I fell in love with scientific research! While at my undergrad institution I worked on two separate research projects that were remarkably different and every day I enjoyed conducting bench science more and more. My interest and passion for scientific research was solidified when I spent a summer as an Amgen Scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Having the opportunity to devote all day, every day to scientific research was a dream come true. This experience gave me all the confidence I needed to know that conducting scientific research is my passion and next thing I knew I was applying to graduate school.

Please describe your research.

I study a blood-dwelling parasitic flatworm, Schistosoma mansoni that infects over 240 million people from the poorest populations worldwide killing around 200,000 a year. Unfortunately, there is only one treatment for this disease, Praziquantel, that has many drawbacks including being ineffective in killing all parasite stages. I specifically study the juvenile stage of this parasite because it is insensitive to praziquantel treatment which dramatically contributes to this parasites ability to maintain its high infection rates and chronic infections in endemic regions. In my study of this resilient stage of schistosomiasis I am searching for a way to target this stage pharmacologically to hopefully find a way to better treat this devastating disease.

Why did you choose UT Southwestern?

Choosing UTSW for graduate school was easy for me. As an institution it is famous for conducting world-class research to answer today’s most important and interesting scientific questions. I choose to apply to UTSW because I had heard amazing things about this graduate program specifically while I was an Amgen scholar, as UTSW had recently begun hosting Amgen scholar students themselves. Once I came to visit UTSW during my interviews, I was validated in my decision to apply. Despite being an incredibly prestigious institution, the students and faculty were incredibly welcoming and provided a warm and inviting atmosphere unlike any other institution I visited. UTSW provides a uniquely down-to-earth and fun environment with scientific diversity and rigor that is unmatched.

What do you think makes the Cell & Molecular Biology Program one of the top in the country?

The Cell and Molecular Biology program was originally established under the excellent guidance of the 1994 Nobel Laurette, Alfred G. Gilman. Since then, this program has had a long and successful history of supporting students and fostering scientific excellence. In addition, the Cell and Molecular Biology program provides students with access to a broad range of faculty with incredibly diverse specialties. The students and faculty in the program care for each other in every way possible, providing a supportive and collaborative environment.

What do you love about the Cell & Molecular Biology Program?

Getting your PhD at UTSW is a no brainer. The school, faculty, and students are supportive in every way. UTSW is incredibly collaborative, fostering an amazing place for science to grow. If you ever run into a roadblock scientifically, there are multiple people on campus willing to help you in any way at the drop of a hat. As a student who came into this graduate program with a general passion for all things biology, I was not sure exactly what scientific specialty or specific program I wanted to pursue. The umbrella program offered at UTSW was perfect for me to get exposure to a rigorous and diverse curriculum giving me every tool I needed to decide for myself which scientific specialty or program was best for me. Choosing the Cell and Molecular biology program was an easy choice once I met the faculty and students in the program and saw first-hand the inviting atmosphere the program provided. In addition, the Cell and Molecular Biology program provides not only scientific support but also a fun approachable laidback environment to do amazing science and have fun.

– Sarah Cobb

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