Samantha Docos

Samantha Docos (Biomedical Sciences: Medical and Veterinary Sciences) received a 2013 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) grant from the Hamel Center to fund her project entitled, “Effect of Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) on the expression of cFLIP in Granulosa Cells.”  

docos berger townson
(left to right) Samantha Docos, Amanda Berger, Dr. Townson

Granulosa cells are found inside female ovarian follicles. Depletion of follicles due to programmed cell death, or apoptosis, of granulosa cells, is a contributing factor to Primary Ovarian Insufficiency. Without the presence of healthy follicles, the egg does not ovulate, and infertility ensues. Other studies have investigated mechanisms that protect granulosa cells from this form of apoptosis; two of these mechanisms involve the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and the molecule cellular FLICE-inhibitory protein (c-FLIP). Samantha set out to determine if exposure of granulosa cells to IGF-1 increases the expression of cFLIP as a mechanism of protection.

“One thing that surprised me about this project is the amount of time it takes to obtain consistent results,” said Samantha. “I always knew that research could be a long process; however I truly learned this for myself this summer. For example, part of my project was to separate protein samples on a gel using electrophoresis. There was already a protocol written for this procedure, however my samples and conditions did not provide me with satisfactory results using that protocol. Therefore I had to troubleshoot the issue and rewrite the protocol for my own situation, which took a lot longer than expected. Although this was frustrating at first, I now appreciate the process because it taught me a lot about critical thinking and patience. Research is not easy, but if you work hard and don’t give up it can be very rewarding when you find the solution to your problem.”

As is the case for many undergraduate researchers, Samantha had the opportunity to work with other students in her mentor, Dr. David Townson’s, lab. “Although my project was done independently, I thoroughly enjoyed the company of my peers in the lab,” said Samantha. “One person in particular, Amanda Berger, provided me with a lot of help throughout the process. Our projects were very different; however the experiments that we conducted were very similar. Therefore we were able to help one another along the way, figuring out issues and teaching one another different techniques. In addition to Amanda and myself, there were three other students working in the lab this summer, Ben Grotton, Nicolette Schwab, and Stephanie Parisi. We all became very good friends and helped one another stay positive throughout the process.”

After wrapping up her SURF project, Samantha will begin work on her Senior Thesis, which will also be done under the guidance of Dr. Townson.