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Tamera Scholz, Senior, Mathematics

When people ask what kind of research I do, I give them the scientific answer first: "I study retinal development in embryonic zebrafish." Then, I translate to English "I cut up fish eyes so I can learn more about how the cells in their retinas interact with each other!" On a typical day, I may find myself peering through a microscope, carefully slicing open the eye of a zebrafish, in order to, very gingerly, separate the retina from the sclera. Or I might be treating slices of the retinas with chemicals that cause the different kinds of cells in the retina to fluoresce different colors. I could also be examining the slides under a fluorescent microscope to see how the cells in the retinas interact with each other. All in a day's work! Currently, I am researching a mutant strain of fish that has a gene that causes their rod cells to die very early in their life and looking at how the death of these cells affects the other cells in the retina, such as the amacrine and bipolar cells, two types of neural cells that are synaptic intermediates between the photoreceptors and ganglion nerve cells. Studying this mutant strain of fish helps us further understand the effects of retinal degenerative diseases. Knowing more about how these diseases progress leads to breakthroughs in treatments and therapies, and can ultimately lead to a cure. It is very exciting to know that the research I am doing now, as an undergraduate, may help develop treatments, and even cures, for retinitis pigmentosa. If it weren't for the Women in Math, Science, and Engineering Program, I would not have the opportunity to gain this experience doing such valuable research!

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