Kethelyne Beauvais '15
Randolph-Macon College student Kethelyne Beauvais ’15 is a
biology and French major who loves the
research process. This summer, for the second consecutive year, she is participating
in the Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
program. SURF offers students the unique opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time,
original research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Beauvais is continuing her analysis of the GPR56 protein,
a project she began in 2012. The title of her project is The Functional Analysis
of G Protein Coupled Receptor 56 in Mammalian Fertilization.
“My research entails breeding and studying male mice without the GPR56 gene and
analyzing how essential parts of their reproductive organs develop and function
differently (as compared to normal mice who have the gene present),” explains Beauvais.
“I am also genotyping the male mice offspring, conducting functional assays, and
researching the characteristics, function, and location of a few hundred sperm proteins
(many of them newly discovered). We hope to use this data to try and locate intriguing
proteins on the sperm through immunofluorescence.”
According to Beauvais, there is no such thing as a “typical” day of research.
“If I am not doing a genotyping experiment, I am researching and analyzing the characteristics,
location, and function of familiar and unfamiliar proteins thought to be found in
the acrosome and membrane of sperm, or I am staining specific sperm proteins with
fluorescent antibodies to be seen under the microscope,” she says. “Each day is
unique—and that’s what I love about research.”
Learning by Doing
The research process is challenging—and rewarding. She presented her previous SURF
research in spring 2013 at the American Society of Andrology’s 38th Annual Conference
in San Antonio, Texas.
“I have learned several new lab procedures, including extracting DNA, using my own
gel and buffers for DNA gel electrophoresis, understanding the process of genotyping
and polymerase chain reactions, and grasping the main concepts and procedures of
many different scientific papers,” says Beauvais of her SURF project. “Gaining all
of these skills in just a couple of months is priceless.”
These are skills that Beauvais will put to good use in medical school. She was recently
accepted into Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). R-MC and EVMS have a
joint BS/MD program, which facilitates qualified students’ entry into medical
school and will enable them to enrich their undergraduate experiences and broaden
their academic focus.
“Mentorship is a crucial part of SURF,” says Beauvais, who meets daily with her
SURF mentor, Biology Professor James Foster.
“Professor Foster is there to answer questions, guide me in the right direction
and offer suggestions that I would have never considered were I on my own. He is
also there to walk me through protocols and double-check my results and conclusions.”
Foster says, “Other researchers have discovered that male mice lacking the GPR56
gene have significantly reduced fertility, and we want to take a closer look to
figure out why. Genotyping is the way to identify which mice have or lack the GPR56
gene. Genotyping is also an important tool used in human health and medicine to
understand disease genes, so when Kethelyne learns about genotyping in medical school,
she will already have had in-depth experience with the methodology. Kethelyne has
also performed some very technically challenging experiments to evaluate the function
of GPR56 in sperm cells. In her project she has mastered a variety of lab procedures
and analyzed many publications related to her project. Kethelyne is able to grasp
and tackle any problem she faces; she is an outstanding researcher.”
Beauvais is a very active member of the R-M community. She volunteered for
Stop Hunger Now, is a member of the
Service Fellows program, and she served as the communications coordinator
and Hunger Lunch director for Nourish International in 2013. Nourish International
aims to create self-sustainability in underprivileged and impoverished international
communities through student-run projects. The Hunger Lunch venture raised funds
and awareness by selling internationally themed dishes on campus.
In August 2013, Beauvais and three other R-MC students will travel to Haiti in conjunction
with Projects for Peace, an initiative of the Davis United World College Scholars
program. Randolph-Macon College was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from the Davis
United World College Scholars program. Beauvais, along with Phuong Bui ’15,
Adwoa Bamfo ’16, and Shuyan Zhan ’15, will use
the grant for their project, “A Spark of Hope for Peace,” as they work closely with
residents of an orphanage. Beauvais will also participate in a
study-abroad trip to France during the fall 2013 semester.
The SURF program was established in 1995 through a generous gift made by Ben ’64
and Peggy Schapiro. The Schapiros continue to support this program, which promotes
scholarly undergraduate research by R-MC students in all disciplines.