Graduate students present research in student showcase

Janeal Downs
Contributing Writer

VCU’s Integrative Life Sciences department offered 11 graduate students the opportunity to present their research in a student-research showcase Monday, Nov. 11 in the Richmond Salons.

“This is a showcase to highlight and promote student research here at VCU, especially the work of all these graduate students and give them a chance to talk about their work,” said showcase organizer and Ph.D. student Julie Charbonnier.

Charbonnier was not only the organizer of the event but also was one of the students to showcase her work. Charbonnier won a Fulbright scholarship in 2012 that helped her begin her research in Donana National Park in southern Spain. Her project is titled, “Carry-over effects of density and hydroperiod in the western spadefoot toad.”

“I’m interested in how climate change impacts the population of amphibians over year,” she said. “This is just my first year of data.”

Charbonnier said that along with the other ten posters, the program included four 15 minute talks and opening and closing remarks. This is the research showcase’s fourth event.

“This is also for undergraduates to encourage them to get involved, meet a lot of students and (learn) how they can build independent studies (and) apply for grants,” Charbonnier said. “This is also a good stepping stone in research.”

Director of the Integrative Life Sciences program William Eggleston Jr. said he acted as a mentor to the students and helped them obtain resources for the showcase through the life sciences budget.

“Today is an opportunity for students to share with each other and with the VCU community and with faculty what they’re working on,” Eggleston said. “One to promote (integrative life sciences) and two to give students the opportunity to see what everyone else is doing and to continue to work towards integrative life sciences.”

Ph.D. student in integrative life sciences and bioinformatics Abigail Glascock also presented her research at the showcase. The title of her research was “Trichomonas vaginalis genotypes, the vaginal microbiome and women’s health.” Glascock received support from the National Institutes of Health for her research.

“We look at the vaginal microbiome, and what the microbiome is is all of the bacteria that live in and on your body,” Glascock said. “The National Institutes of Health funded us to look specifically at the site of the female vagina.”

She said her team sequenced the bacteria from about 6,000 women to see what bacteria they found, but focused specifically on the microbiome in women with a diagnosis of Trichomoniasis, a common STD.

The disease, which is caused by a parasite that causes inflammation and irritation, is easily curable according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Her research showed one type of the disease appears to affect older women, white women and Hispanic women more frequently than others.

“People should really be more educated about their own health,” Glascock said. “Only 22 percent of women know what Trichomoniasis is … There’s about 160 million cases worldwide every year and it’s really damaging to society.”

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