Intelligence for Hope
Allatah Mekile is an honors student majoring in biotechnology, with a minor in chemistry. Most people would say she will go far; which is true, but only by half. The whole of it should include that Mekile has already gone far, and then some.
Mekile came to ESU right after Notre Dame High School, where she graduated second in her class. Now a senior, graduating this spring, Mekile has held three internships: the first with DSM Nutritional Products in Belvidere, N.J.; one with Johns Hopkins University; and the latest one, last summer, at the University of Pennsylvania, which provided her with a research project that proved Mekile to be an award winner.
“My project was titled: The Role of TRIM2 Polymorphisms in Restricting Junín Infection,” Mekile explains. “Junín is a virus that is the causative agent of Argentine Hemorrhagic Fever and TRIM2 is a human gene involved in restricting the infection. There are many polymorphisms, or forms, of this gene that occur naturally in the human population, and the goal of my project was to investigate if any polymorphisms were better or worse restriction factors than the wild type TRIM2 – that is, the form that occurs most often in the population.”
Mekile’s research was selected for a poster presentation in San Jose, Calif., at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Nearly 4,000 people were in attendance, with more than 1,700 students presenting either oral or poster presentations. Mekile’s project won her an award in the microbiology discipline, which came with a one-year membership in the American Society for Microbiology.
It was Mekile’s second internship, at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the effects of cancer on genes that peaked in her an interest in oncology. With a 3.99 GPA, she will enter a program allowing students to go directly from a bachelor’s degree to study for a Ph.D.; Mekile plans a doctorate in cell and molecular biology.
No one can promise the future, and a cancer cure seems always beyond human grasp. Hope, however, is a constant we all embrace. It will come, one day; when is yet another constant. Even with people like Allatah Mekile, that day of discovery remains an unknown – to suggest otherwise is to place far too heavy a burden on anyone’s shoulders. But with such people working on our behalf, we have good reason to see the light of our hope burn that much brighter.