Radford University senior Kimberly Filcek is among a small group of college and university students selected by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) for a 2012 undergraduate research fellowship.
The competitive award is made to students who wish to pursue graduate careers in microbiology. This year the ASM awarded fellowships to 56 of the 152 applicants. Each fellow receives a stipend of up to $4,000, a two-year ASM student membership and funding to attend the ASM Presentation Institute general meeting.
Fellows have the opportunity to conduct full-time summer research at the institution with ASM mentors. They also may present their research results, if their abstracts are accepted, at the general meeting.
Filcek's research project is titled "Characterization of prohibitin amino acid sequences necessary for dengue virus binding." Her mentor at RU is Assistant Professor Justin Anderson.
Filcek, a Lorton native, said her research involves examining "differences in amino acid sequences of the prohibitin protein in vector and non-vector mosquito species to find specific sites where the sequences differ consistently in non-vectors, which may be key in preventing virus attachment."
The goal of finding these sites "is to artificially mutate the amino acid sequences of different mosquito prohibitins to turn vector proteins into non-vector proteins, hopefully allowing us to find a means to alter or block those sites on a larger scale to prevent the spread of dengue virus."
The dengue virus, Filcek explained, is a tropical disease that is slowly making its way to the United States. She said the virus "generally causes a flu-like disease with severe arthralgia but can also cause dengue hemorrhagic fever."
The ASM, based in Washington, D.C., is the world's oldest and largest single life-science organization. Established in 1899, it has more than 39,000 members.