Magazine article American Scientist

Meet Your Fellow Companion: Samelia Okpodu

Magazine article American Scientist

Meet Your Fellow Companion: Samelia Okpodu

Article excerpt

Sigma Xi's motto is the Greek "Spoudon Xynones," or "Companions in Zealous Research. " With that thought in mind, we like to highlight fellow companions to learn more about their work and what the honor of induction to Sigma Xi has meant for their careers. Samelia Okpodu (SX 2010) is researching how critical molecular components of the human eye effect retinal development and the downstream effects of their absence.

Tell us about your educational background including your doctoral research.

My bachelor's degree is in optical engineering and was completed at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. I am currently working on my PhD in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Howard University in Washington, DC. My emphasis is on neurophysiology, more specifically the cellular and molecular aspects of retinal development. The retina is the neural component of the eye that contains the photoreceptors as well as the initial processing machinery for visual pathways.

What is the focus of your current research?

My current research focuses on the development of the retina with specific emphasis on Prickle2, a core protein of the planar cell polarity signaling pathway. Prickle2 is specifically interesting in the retina because of characteristics found in the expression profile of cone-dominated (mutant) retina.

Tell us about something we might see in our daily lives that directly correlates to your work.

Visual impairments have the ability to touch every aspect of our lives. Degradation and degeneration of the retina can lead to partial or full blindness. So my research is rooted in investigating why this happens.

Do you have a particular teacher or professor who inspired your love of science?

My love of science undoubtedly comes from my mother, who is a professor and researcher. I spent countless hours in the lab with her when I was a child racking pipette tips, which was my first foray into the scientific process. I also was fortunate to have fantastic scientific guidance in college. My mentor helped cultivate my passion for optics.

What are your thoughts on the future of STEM education?

STEM education is reaching a critical point and the potential for growth in this realm is phenomenal. …

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