Kethelyne Beauvais '15 is a biology and French major.
“I’ve always had an interest in human biology,” says Randolph-Macon College student
Kethelyne Beauvais ’15. “One of my passions is to learn how the
human body operates.”
This summer, Beauvais, a biology and
French major, followed her passion with the help of the Schapiro Undergraduate
Research Fellowship (SURF) program. Every weekday
for 10 weeks she nestled into a lab in the Copley Science Center, where she researched
a protein known as GPR56.
“I researched the GPR56 protein found on the acrosome of sperm, which may be an
essential protein involved with sperm-egg interactions during mammalian fertilization,”
she explains. “An acrosome is a structure at the end of a sperm cell that releases
enzymes to digest the cell ‘coat’ of an egg, enabling the sperm to penetrate the
egg.” Beauvais, who presented her work at the
SURF Symposium, worked under the guidance of Biology Professor James Foster.
“Every day in the lab is unique,” says Beauvais, who hails from Alexandria, Virginia.
“I treated guinea pig sperm cells with various buffer solutions and made slides
with the cells, or counted the thousands of cells I treated the previous day,” she
says. “I noted whether or not a cell had its acrosome intact, and this told me whether
the GPR56 protein had been activated. In the midst of these activities I touched
base with Professor Foster to talk about observations and ways to improve future
In addition to her discoveries in the lab, Beauvais learned a few things about herself
“SURF teaches a level of independence I did not know I could achieve so quickly,”
she says. “The research experience I gained will help me perform better in future
science courses at Randolph-Macon and beyond. Professor Foster encouraged independence
in the lab, but he was always there to guide me and answer my questions. His mentorship
helped me build problem-solving skills.”
“Kethelyne was fantastic in the lab,” says Foster. “She has only taken one biology
course so far (Integrative Biology II), yet her work was more on the level of a
senior project. She picked things up very quickly and showed poise and maturity
in conducting research. On paper her project was fairly straightforward, but functional
studies of living cells in culture are very challenging. Kethelyne understood this
and was able to learn from the literature and carefully work through the technical
nuances of her experiments to make it work. Collecting the data involved a lot of
grunt work, yet she stuck to it and produced really solid data. Kethelyne has a
solid grasp on what she has done and she will present her work at a scientific conference
When she isn’t donning a lab coat, Beauvais is involved in numerous campus activities.
She is a member of the Campus Events Committee,
the Service Fellows,
and the Higgins Academic Center,
where she works as a mentor. She is also a member of Circle K International, a leadership
program offered by Kiwanis International. In addition, Beauvais volunteers at the
Saint James the Less Free Clinic in Ashland, where she assists nurses and doctors
and does clerical work. Her post R-MC plans include medical school.
“Ultimately, I’d like to become a general practitioner or family physician,” she
says. “At least once a year I’d like to offer my medical services for free in Francophone
countries such as Haiti.”
SURF was introduced in 1995 as an endowment to
support scholarly undergraduate research by students in all disciplines. Students
conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under
the guidance of a faculty mentor. The initial gift for the program was made by Benjamin
Schapiro ’64 and his wife Peggy.