Mount alumna publishes paper in prestigious science journal

Jacqueline Copeland

NEWBURGH — Jacqueline Copeland, a 2017 Mount Saint Mary College Biology alumna, recently had her research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America.

Coauthored with Marcos Simoes-Costa, assistant professor in Cornell University’s Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, “Post-transcriptional Tuning of FGF Signaling Mediates Neural Crest Induction,” can be found at the following link: https://www.pnas.org/content/117/52/33305

Copeland is now a third year student in the in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University. She is a PhD candidate in the field of Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology, and her primary interest is in understanding post-transcriptional mechanisms that guide the development of different stem cell populations.

The paper came about when Copeland joined professor Marcos Simoes-Costa’s lab. She began investigating the potential roles of miRNAs in neural crest stem cell development, and the data from this research culminated in the publication of the article in the PNAS journal.

Copeland said that she wouldn’t be the successful student she is today without the solid foundation she built at Mount Saint Mary College.

“The Mount was an instrumental stepping off point for where I am now in my studies,” Copeland said, noting that before her second year as an undergrad, she did not think she would end up in graduate school. “It was really through my mentor Dr. [Evan] Merkhofer (Biology) that I learned about the opportunities and career possibilities associated with getting a PhD. I really owe it all to him. He was very involved in my development as a young scientist and pushed me out of my comfort zone to present at conferences,” among other things.

Copeland says she became interested in scientific research through the college’s Summer Undergraduate Experience (SURE), which she participated in under Merkhofer for two summers as an undergraduate student.

“This is truly a valuable program at the Mount and can expose students to research paths they otherwise would not have known about,” she said.

Copeland also credited Suparna Bhalla, associate professor of Biology at the Mount, with leading her towards a career as a scientist.

“She was very enthusiastic about my decision to attend graduate school and helped me through my career choices a lot,” explained Copeland. “I owe a lot to both of them [Merkhofer and Bhalla] and consider them very important influences in my life. We still keep in contact all the time which I really enjoy.”

She added that she enjoyed the Mount’s family atmosphere and personal attention afforded to her by her professors.

“I cannot have envisioned my undergraduate studies going any better,” Copeland said. “I think a lot of that I owe to the tight knit community of professors and students in the Natural Sciences division. If I could give advice to any incoming undergraduate student, it would be this: don’t be shy. Reach out to the faculty and form relationships with them. Hang out in the science office. You will be amazed how having a great relationship with your professors/advisor can open up numerous opportunities for you in your future career. I absolutely love the Mount and miss it tremendously.”

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