Searching for a cure

Mount student’s research may aid in treating human illness
February 17, 2017

Jacqueline Copeland of Newburgh, N.Y., a Mount Saint Mary College biology/pre-med student, discussed healing human disease through the study of baker’s yeast. 


According to Jacqueline Copeland of Newburgh, N.Y., a Mount Saint Mary College biology/pre-med student, the key to curing illnesses like cancer, spinal muscular atrophy, and cystic fibrosis may lie in an unlikely place: baker’s yeast.

Copeland explained the most recent results of her research, “Identification of Generic Interactions Associated with Prp5 Using S. Cerevisiae as a Model,” during a public talk on February 16.

Her study of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, better known as baker’s yeast, could one day be used to better diagnose and treat human diseases.

“Hopefully if we learn more about this protein in yeast, we can translate that knowledge to humans,” Copeland explained. “About 85 percent of their splicing genome is homologous to ours.”

So far, Copeland has identified one interaction with the MMO1 gene, whose function is currently unknown. She intendeds to continue her research as she completes her Mount education.

“Ultimately, the goal is to find more of those genes that are interacting, and find out how these genes are all effecting splicing,” she explained. “It’s on a small scale right now, but we have to have these small discoveries to have the bigger picture make sense.”

Copeland carried out her research with the aid of Evan Merkhofer, assistant biology professor at the Mount.

In April 2016, Copeland was awarded “Outstanding Poster Presentation” and “Excellence in Innovation Research” for her genome research at the 70th annual Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC) at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.

The talk was part of the Mount’s Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) series. The goal of iROC is to “provide a forum for Mount faculty, staff, and students to showcase their research endeavors with both Mount Saint Mary College and the local community in a manner easily understood by attendees,” explained series coordinators Merkhofer and Jennifer Park, assistant librarian for access and outreach services. Presentations include research proposals, initial data collection, and completed research projects.