Mr. Thomas McWilliams
Academic Department: Biology
Graduation Year: 2012
Thomas McWilliams researched the expression of heat shock proteins (HSPs) in both plants and animals found in acid mine drainage. HSPs are chaperone proteins that promote proper folding and stability of other proteins within cells. When cells are subjected to stress, they often produce more HSPs, like HSP70, to combat adverse cellular conditions. Therefore, HSP70 can serve as a biomarker to reveal stress in organisms found within acid mine drainages.
Thomas is a Biology/pre-med graduate from Saint Francis University. He began his research in the summer of this year after taking Vertebrate Physiology, which was taught by his research mentor, Dr. Irene Wolf. Thomas was an international student from Gold Coast, Australia. Beyond his research activities, he played for the Red Flash Men’s Soccer team. He was also the Chair of Philanthropy for Sigma Chi.
Dr. Wolf completed her Ph.D. at the University of Toledo Medical School. She then continued her work as a Post-doc at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Her dissertation exploring the role of stress proteins in hormone receptor activity was the driving force behind Thomas' research project. She and her students employed a variety of techniques in the lab, including protein extraction, protein assay using a new Bio-Rad microplate reader, SDS-PAGE and immunoblots. They expect the results of this research to be published in a peer reviewed journal.
This research opportunity gave Thomas experience and insight into the life of a researcher and inspired him to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree and become a physician scientist.