April 2010

ASBMB Inducts Chi Omega Lambda Class of 2010


Virzhiniya Lekova

University of Richmond

Education---LekovaI grew up in Bulgaria and came to the United States when I started college at the University of Richmond. This May, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I have been working with glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) and using it as model to study allostery and protein stability. My first research project focused on the evolution of GDH, working to answer the questions of how and why GDH went from exhibiting no allosteric regulation in prokaryotes to exhibiting complex allosteric regulation in mammals. In my subsequent research project, I studied the effects of various nucleotides on the stability of the enzyme. The highlight of my research experience has been presenting my work at the 2008 and 2009 ASBMB annual meetings. The experience taught me how to effectively communicate my results to others, helped to build my confidence in public speaking and gave me valuable feedback about my work.

Outside the classroom and lab, my experiences with teaching and my participation in the organization Women in Math and Science have given me a glimpse of what it is like to be a part the science community. The Women in Math and Science organization on campus provides career guidance to young women. Members regularly meet with distinguished female scientists who talk about the specific challenges that women face in these fields and share their coping strategies. I have worked as a teaching volunteer in a physics summer camp for three-year-olds, as an English-as-a-second-language teacher and as a chemistry teaching assistant. The responsibilities involved in teaching stimulated me to quickly learn how to explain even the most complicated chemistry concepts. But the most important thing I communicated as a teacher, I believe, is a passion for the material. Teaching really has helped me grow as a scientist.

While spending a semester at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, I took a course in molecular genetics and was fascinated by the way the field incorporates classical genetics, biochemistry and cell biology in the discovery of gene-related processes. I remember reading about eukaryotic chromatin packaging structures one night and thinking they are the most awe-inspiring thing I’ve ever encountered. I want to explore this microcosm of the gene, and I plan to do molecular genetics research while pursuing a doctorate in molecular biology.

In my free time, I like to read nonfiction and enjoy running. Running not only gives me a break from intellectual activities but also trains the same “mental muscles” one needs to do good research— endurance, perseverance and the ability to focus on a goal. I am excited to be attending the ASBMB annual meeting again this year and presenting a poster with my most recent research.


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