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Graduate student’s cellular research garners recognition at international conference

Jaya Gosh, a graduate student in biological engineering, won a Most Outstanding Poster Award at the International Biophysical Conference, which detailed the exocytosis research she is doing in the lab of Professor Kevin Gillis.

Just one graduate student in sea of 5,000 researchers from all over the world, Jaya Ghosh made a big splash at her very first International Biophysical Conference in February by winning a Most Outstanding Poster Award in the Student Achievement portion of the Society’s meeting.

“It was going to be a great experience and winning the poster award made it even better,” said the University of Missouri bioengineering graduate student.

Ghosh is working in the lab of Kevin Gillis, a bioengineering professor at MU, researching cell exocytosis and endocytosis, the category in which her poster bested those of her peers.

“Jaya is an enthusiastic student and has made good progress in a very interesting project.  Therefore I was not surprised that her poster captured the attention of the exocytosis community,” said Dr. Gillis.

Using microelectrode “lab-on-a-chip” technology, Ghosh’s work is aimed at developing a robust procedure to measure the electrical signals resulting from calcium-triggered cell processes. Ghosh is recording electrochemical signals resulting from release of neurotransmitters, but the process can be used to measure a broader spectrum of cellular activity.

Ghosh explained that each chip contains a number of electrodes, and that ideally there is one cell on each electrode. Others in Gillis’ lab are investigating various techniques to target cells to electrodes.

“One of the things that is unique about my research is that I am using the same electrode to stimulate the cell as well as measure its electrical activity,” Ghosh said. “When a cell is electrically stimulated, pores form in the membrane, then I can introduce calcium into the cell to trigger exocytosis, which can then be measured.

“In this way, I can efficiently stimulate and measure the activity of single cells,” she added.

This approach will be extremely valuable to allow discovery of drugs that change transmitter release to treat neurological disorders.

“The poster contest was a huge experience for me,” said Ghosh. “Dr. Ronald Holz from the University of Michigan was one of the judges. He is one of the biggies in our field. I never thought I would meet or even talk to him, and there he was, looking at my poster and telling me I had done nice work. It was an amazing and humbling feeling.

“They announced the winners of the poster contests at dinner, in a room full of people. I never thought I could make it there, but Dr. Gillis encouraged me to do it. He is a great mentor. I have learned a lot from him and others in the lab,” Ghosh said.