One of the key elements of the BIMS program and its approach to giving students an experience-rich education was the intent to have all students complete a capstone experience. We felt many students would opt for on-campus projects with faculty but that some would take advantage of opportunities with summer research programs and biotech companies to apply their skills and knowledge in different settings. With the resources of the TTU School of Pharmacy’s graduate program in Abilene and biotech firms like Receptor Logic settling in here, it was only a matter of time before a student would complete their capstone work at one of those two venues. However, with a program only two years old, we felt it would be at least another year before this happened. Biology major Gina Ortiz surprised us all by choosing a BIMS capstone experience and working with TTU School of Pharmacy scientists this spring. She thereby becomes the first BIMS capstone student, and the first to complete the work in collaboration with an outside agency.
Ortiz, a Nevada resident, is headed for a career in medicine or biomedical research and used this experience to further hone in a direction to follow once she graduates this May – a year early. Her work was done at the School of Pharmacy in the lab of Dr. Jon Weidanz with direct supervision from his doctoral student Bhavna Verma. Her project was entitled “Biodistribution of RL4B TCRm antibody in mice models”. In her work, Gina became proficient in conducting enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) to screen whether therapeutic T-cell receptor mimics (TCR-m) used for fighting cancer tumors might target and bind healthy mouse tissues. Such information would be valuable in completing an overall picture of how TCR-mimics impact the biology of a patient when used in treatment.
Gina explained her research on Friday, April 30th before a group of students and faculty. Among them was McMurry’s president, Dr. John Russell, who was impressed by the quality of work and polish of her presentation. On behalf of all in BIMS, congratulations Gina on a job well done!