Meet April Wynn
April N. Wynn walked away with the second-place award in the Life Sciences category at this year's Graduate Student Research Symposium. Her winning poster presentation is entitled, "SEUSS-Related Transcriptional Regulatory Complexes are Vital for Ovule Development in Arabidopsis thaliana."
Wynn, a second-year doctoral student in Genetics, is originally from Hurst, Texas. Her training in the life sciences began at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, where she earned her B.S. in Natural Science. While there she spent two years "isolating and characterizing the expression of the genes involved in iron uptake and reduction in cucumber plants" as research for an honors undergraduate thesis. Wynn says that her exposure to undergraduate research was instrumental in her decision to pursue science.
First, however, she completed her M.S. in Higher Education Administration at Texas A&M University. "This degree allowed me to understand how universities work to educate students and how students learn and develop while at college. This training has served me well when interacting with students and teaching them."
Plant reproduction is essential for the sustainability of the species, and proper formation and development of the plant's reproductive organs are of critical importance. With a focus on Arabidopsis, Wynn's research focuses on "identifying proteins that work together in complexes to regulate the proper formation of the female reproductive structure, the carpel, and the ovules, or seed precursors."
One critical developmental gene, called PHABULOSA, is controlled by a complex group of proteins that regulate its expression in the carpel. Although two proteins that regulate PHABULOSA expression -- SEUSS and AINTEGUMENTA -- are already known, there are several others yet to be identified. Wynn is examining proteins similar to SEUSS, as well as other novel proteins for their effect on PHABULOSA expression in the carpel. "My approach involves looking at plants that are defective in the development of the carpel or ovules to see what factors or proteins they are missing compared to normal, wild-type plants. Also, I can examine plants that are missing SEUSS and AINTEGUMENTA to see how losing these proteins affect expression of other genes within these plants."
Wynn says that the proteins she is examining in her research have not all been well characterized, and she believes that she may identify completely new members of the PHABULOSA regulatory complex. The most interesting finding to date has been that the SEUSS-related proteins are not completely functionally redundant -- they have different binding or interaction partners, which likely confers some level of specificity. Wynn hopes that the results of her research will open other avenues of study in plants other than Arabidopsis.
This year's symposium was the first time that Wynn created a poster for her current research. Although she knew the story she wanted to tell, she found it difficult to identify what should be included. In the end, creating and revising the poster helped her to focus on the significance of her findings, rather than on the day-to-day data. "Overall, I found that that putting this poster together allowed me to understand my research better and gave me the ability to more easily converse about what I work on with others."
When she's not hard at work in the lab, Wynn enjoys reading a good book, watching her favorite TV shows, and playing cards. But she also loves to play racquetball, saying that ". . . it is a great stress relief, and gets me moving around. When we play, we spend as much time laughing as we do chasing after the ball."
And Wynn's words of advice to her fellow graduate students: "Follow your passion! Without passion there is no joy and without joy what is the point. If you don't wake up wanting to do your research or come to campus, then follow your heart and try something new. It is never too late to do what you love and love what you do."
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