AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: emilinoacid

You don’t know Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett!? Read This!!


Who is Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett? Nature Medicine published an article on October 19th, 2020 titled “The duty to mentor, be visible and represent” which answers this question. Dr. Corbett is a research fellow for the Coronavirus vaccines and Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC). An additional article published by the American Society for Microbiology titled “Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Ph.D.” outlines her vast career achievements.

Personal Background

Kizzmekia Corbett is a Black woman who grew up in North Carolina, where she attended grade school. Dr. Corbett is a first generation college graduate who was unfamiliar with careers in science most of her young life, until she met a mentor who inspired her to dive into a scientific career. She was sixteen years old attending public school when she discovered her passion for science. As her parents encouraged her to do during her high school years, Dr. Corbett had a summer internship with American Chemical Society’s Project SEED program, where she researched at a lab of the University of North Carolina. As mentioned above, Corbett came out of this program with a mentor who changed the path of her life. PhD candidate Albert Russel, a Black man, ignited a passion and sense of possibility in Corbett to achieve her goals in STEM, regardless of her gender or race. She also learned the importance of mentorship in success and understanding in the field of science. Short after, she attended the University of Maryland where she graduated, in 2008, with Bachelor of science degree in Biological Studies, and a secondary major in Sociology. She also graduated as a Meyerhoff Scholar and an NIH undergraduate scholar. Later in 2014, she completed her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology. From this mentorship, she now feels a duty to inspire the youth of aspiring scientists. She is vigorously passionate about inclusivity in the field, and supporting those from underrepresented or underprivileged backgrounds. She is fulfilling her wish by mentoring students in the National Institutes of Health HiStep 2.0 program. She believes that exploring interest in science at a young age is extremely important.

“As I trek through my scientific career, making novel discoveries, climbing what seems to be a never-ending ladder, I am reminded of my other duties…to mentor…to be visible…to represent.” –Kizzmekia Corbet

Career Accomplishments/ Advancements in COVID-19

She is currently a research fellow for the Coronavirus Vaccines and Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center. As an immunologist, she and her team have been committed to developing coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Corbett’s team partnered with Moderna, Inc. to develop the mRNA-1273 vaccine. The FDA, Food and Drug Administration, approved the clinical trial of the mRNA-1273 vaccine. Dr. Corbett and her team have completed extensive research and have made several important findings regarding coronavirus vaccines and antibodies. The Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine has since– January–  been approved by the FDA and distributed to the public!

Where to next? She is currently in Phase 1 of a clinical trial to develop a universal influenza vaccine. Another one of her goals is to become an independent principal investigator.

It is clear that Kizzmekia S. Corbett is a brilliant, accomplished individual who only has more goals to achieve within the science community! Let me know what you think of her story in the comment, and if this story sparks and additional interest in you!

How Is Covid- 19 Really Spread?

Background- It is clear that Covid- 19 has been a fatal and vicious virus causing a pandemic, but how is it actually spread? The answer to that question can be found in the World Health Organization’s article titled “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): How is it transmitted?”.  The article discusses how the SARS-CoV-2 virus, commonly known as the Coronavirus, is spread between people. First, lets quickly zoom into the biological elements of transmission. On a cellular level, the outside of a coronavirus molecule is a spike protein which latches on to specific receptors that fuse it into human cells. The proteins “trick” the human cells into letting them enter and infect them. Once in the healthy cell, the virus spreads its genetic material and spreads throughout your body.

When/Where can the virus spread more easily?- The risk of transmission is highest when people are in close proximity to others for a long period of time. The World Health Organization, or WHO, describes that the more people in a group, the more likely the virus will spread. Any crowded spaces, close contact, or confined spaces with a lack of ventilation. Additionally, it has been found that people are most contagious early on in their illness, although this can range person- to- person.

Transmission of virus via liquid particles – The WHO claims that one way in which a person can transmit the virus is through small liquid particles spread by coughing, sneezing, speaking, or even just breathing. The liquid particles, most commonly respiratory droplets, vary in size, and transmit the virus from person to person. When in close contact with someone with the virus– less than six feet– you can catch the virus through your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Aerosol transmission- Aerosol transmission is when the virus travels through particles in the air to infect people. This transmission is most likely to occur indoors, and particularly in crowded spaces with a lack of ventilation.

What is really important that we understand about transmission is how this virus transmits, meaning how does this virus move from one individual to another?- Dr Maria Van Kerkhove

My Opinion- I think it is super important to educate yourself on how the virus spreads from person- to- person in order to avoid the situations in which transmission is most likely. Further, it is rather interesting to learn about how the virus enters your cells, and biologically infects your body.

I would love to hear your reactions or thoughts in the comments!

Four Distinct Giraffe Species?!

Wait- What?

Yes! According to the Article titled “Giraffes more speciose than expected“, recent studies in Current Biology have found evidence that leads to the conclusion that there are indeed four distinct Giraffe species. These are very unexpected results as until now, only one distinct species of Giraffe has been recognized. Senckenberg and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s scientists have analyzed nuclear markers of numerous animals in an effort to protect and preserve the population of endangered species in Africa.

Why Haven’t We Known This in the Past? 

The Giraffe species’ biology has past been poorly explored and understood by scientists which seems counterintuitive given their magnitude both physically and socially. In the past, it was concluded that the Giraffe species includes nine subspecies with different horn makeup, coat patterns, and preferred environment. However, currently this assumption is under close review as the genetics of Giraffe’s has been studied meticulously. Does this timing surprise you? It definitely surprised me!

More Details About the Four Species

Professor Axel Janke, researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research and Professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany noted that these four species do not mate with each other in the wild, meaning they only mate with their alike species. The four species binomial nomenclature and common name are as follows; Giraffa giraffa or Southern Giraffe, G. tippelskirchi or Masai Giraffe, G. reticulata or Reticulated Giraffe, and G. camelopardalis or Northern Giraffe. Connecting to the biology curriculum, binomial naming consists of two parts: the generic name and the specific name. Usually these forms are Latinized. Formalized by Carl Linnaeus, this naming structure is very helpful in identifying species and variations of species, or subspecies, and it is essential to the biological community. To construct this conclusion, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation gathered skin samples from numerous subspecies of Giraffe, and scientists at Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Senckenberg Natural History Collections analyzed their DNA. This DNA was traced back to their common ancestors from about .4-2 million years ago, which confirms the evidence of more than one species.

What now?/ My Opinion

These findings create even more urgency to protect the dwindling Giraffe population. With four distinct Giraffe species sharing an environment, it is imperative that humans do not interfere with their survival. I think it is so important to protect the population of all endangered animals, including Giraffes. Do you think there are other animals out there with unknown distinct species? From what I have researched, I can confidently say that I believe so!

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