Qyana Griffith

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
I am currently investigating the effects of glucocorticoids on the retrieval of long-term spatial memory in rats with Dr. Benno Roozendaal in Dr. James L. McGaugh’s Laboratory. Glucocorticoids are a major class of stress hormones that have been found to impair the retrieval of memory in rats and humans. By investigating and identifying the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects, potential therapies may be developed.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I was first introduced to the notion of conducting research the summer before my freshman year. While in the CAMP program, I attended several presentations given by students who conducted research and they encouraged us all to take advantage of the research opportunities that the university offered. It was not until May 1999 that I seriously considered research. During that time, I had been working in a pharmacy for two years and noticed that people had forgotten that they had picked up their medicine on a prior occasion. When the time got closer for me to choose a laboratory, I looked on the Internet and saw that Dr. James McGaugh had given a talk about the effects of hormones on memory and how they can impair it. I thought that this was such a coincidence so I e-mailed Dr. McGaugh and asked if I could work in his lab. I met with him personally and we discussed to goals of the lab and he accepted my request to work with his team.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

Research has enhanced my education in several ways by allowing me to expand my problem-solving skills and learn how to deal with managing my time. By hypothesizing and formulating experiments with my mentor, I am learning how to deal with possible problems patients may have. Budgeting my time with school and research is another thing I have learned while conducting research.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
One of my most memorable experiences may seem a bit morbid, but it is one I now find the funniest. We deal with rats in our lab and in order to determine whether we injected the hormones into the right area of the brain, we have to decapitate the rats’ heads. There is an elaborate set of procedures required to take the brains out of the rats, one of which includes injecting the rats with formaldehyde. Well, after my mentor carried out an elaborate set of procedures, he placed all of the decapitated rat heads on the lab station so I could take the brains out. When I looked at one of the heads, I saw the rat wink at me. I was scared and stared at the head until my mentor asked what was wrong. I told him what had happened and he told me that the blinking was a result of the formaldehyde. I just laughed and continued extracting the brains, but I kept an eye on the head that had winked at me.
5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

My future plans include attending medical school and becoming a thoracic surgeon. Research has helped me prepare for medical school by developing my communication skills through my participation in scientific symposia and aiding in my problem-solving skills. Strong communication skills are essential in everyday interactions with people and I will need to be able to express my thoughts fluently in interviews for medical school. Problem-solving skills will be essential in medical school and during surgery.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

I encourage students to conduct research while they are in their undergraduate years in order to decide if they really want to commit to research. When I first started research, my mentor told me I might not obtain any immediate results; it might take several months to see any trends. Going to graduate school to specialize in one area is a commitment to which one has to be dedicated. Experiencing what research is as an undergraduate prepares one for what is to come in the future. As with any career, there are times of ups and downs, but one must have patience and be dedicated to the research in order to be successful.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '01 Anna Kaiser
Nov. '01 Sunny Staton
Oct. '01 Kristine Kolkman
Sep. '01 Raquel Fernandez
Aug. '01 Temre Davies
Jul. '01 Krikor Andonian
Jun. '01 Elizabeth Kirchner
May '01 Joshua Neil
Apr. '01 Alia Shbeeb
Mar. '01 Qyana Griffith
Feb. '01 Reshmi Basu
Jan. '01 Yousuke Hamai
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