By Alissa Kocer
2018 GCB Summer Scholar Naeema Hopkins-Kotb is rounding out her Duke undergraduate career and looking toward medical school.
Her Summer Scholars project, “Investigating human dicentric X chromosome stability using a mouse-human hybrid model,” grew into her senior thesis project. Hopkins-Kotb decided to continue working in mentor Beth Sullivan’s lab after completing the 10-week program. “I liked how visual the project is,” Hopkins-Kotb said, “and I felt that there were a lot of interesting directions to take from that first summer.”
She expanded her research to not only include dicentric X chromosomes, but also deleted X chromosomes. Both are implicated in Turner syndrome and reproductive abnormalities but can be stable in humans. Hopkins-Kotb has been contributing to a library of engineered X chromosomes and a repository of information about their characteristics that can inform future related studies on the chromosome’s stability and its implication for disease.
“I’m working to identify breakpoints in the chromosomes,” she said, “and using a genome browser and available data to see if there is anything special about those breakpoints.”
Her interest in biomedical science has only strengthened since her time in the Summer Scholars program through this research. Through this opportunity, she has been able to design her own research and watch it unfold over the past three years.
Hopkins-Kotb will begin medical school in the fall and is looking forward to pursuing a career as a physician.
“The Summer Scholars Program provided the perfect foundation,” she said. “It gave me the skills I needed to talk and write about my research – skills I have been able to use on applications, medical school interviews, my thesis, posters and more.”