College students find a variety of ways to spend time away from their regular studies. Kevin Gibas, MS 5, used his vacation last winter to work on a research project at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo, New York.
The payoff was an invitation earlier this year to give a seminar and present a research poster on his findings at the 2015 meeting of the American Crystallographic Association, an organization of scientists who study the structure of matter at atomic or near atomic resolution.
Gibas studied how the genetic structure of proteins in various species of bacteria, plants and fungi has evolved over time. By establishing a timeline, or evolutionary tree, and understanding how these structures change in relation to one another, researchers may be able to develop new drugs that target disease-causing proteins while reducing drug-related toxicity and other side effects.
Much of Gibas’ work took place using an online program to analyze large sets of data collected from the Protein Data Bank, which collects information about any protein that has been scientifically studied. Gibas also prepared a manuscript that outlines his analyses of the Ribosomal protein he studied. He hopes to have the paper submitted for publication after passing a review of the faculty and staff at the research institute.
Gibas said his interest in science blossomed while he was a high school student in Grand Island, New York. As a sophomore, Gibas was selected for a structural biology/bioinformatics internship for high school students at Hauptman-Woodward Institute.
“I knew I wanted to pursue a career in a science-related field, most likely medicine,” he said. “While I was interning, I studied the basics of structural biology and bioinformatics and found that not only did I have a passion for medicine, but also the basic science research that is the basis for medical science.”
Gibas spent two years interning at the institute before moving to Kansas City and entering the School of Medicine’s six-year program.
His work in New York, Gibas said, has helped him develop skills in data analysis. It also provided a better understanding of structural biology and genetics as they apply to health care.
“We are entering an age of personalized medicine where genetics and genetic testing for certain diseases and conditions is becoming more and more common and an increasingly important, yet complicated, part of the practice of medicine,” Gibas said.