From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice
Dr. Jamie Newman: Exploring changes in gene expression – lessons learned from MIT
Jamie Newman grew up in Los Angeles where she attended large Los Angeles public schools. Back then, she assumed that because she liked her science courses that she would grow up to be a doctor. Jamie’s parents encouraged her to explore smaller colleges on the east coast, and she ended up going to Amherst College where she was a member of the track and cross-country teams. She also began to realize that she would have more good career options other than becoming a doctor. At Amherst, Jamie met a biology professor, Dr. Richard Goldsby, who allowed her to do undergraduate research with him. He has been a tremendous influence and mentor in Jamie’s life ever since. After her junior year, Jamie took part in a summer research program at Cold Spring Harbor Labs and had her first exposure to cutting-edge research. After graduating from Amherst, Jamie spent two years working as a research technician at MIT while she decided what she wanted to do next. It was there that Jamie decided to continue in an academic career and chose to stay at MIT for her PhD because of the smaller graduate program and the opportunity to do some teaching. Jamie explored an area of biology that she had never previously considered when she joined the lab of Dr. Richard Young studying mechanisms that regulate gene expression on a genomic scale. Jamie said “MIT was an exciting place to be a student with opportunities to meet world-class researchers and publish in some top tier journals. While at MIT I did spend a couple of hours a week bartending at the pub on campus, The Muddy Charles. The bar is located in Walker Memorial, one of the oldest buildings on MIT’s campus directly across the street from the Charles River. The bar is a unique environment, tended only by MIT graduate students, where faculty, students, and MIT staff get together on cold days to sit by the fire, gather to watch Red Sox games, or meet after group meetings to continue discussing new ideas. It was a really fun experience for me, introduced me to other graduate students in different disciplines on campus, and helped me learn how to talk to people from different areas of science.” After completing her PhD in the spring of 2010, Jamie moved to Ruston to be with her husband, Dr. Brad Cicciarelli, whom she had met while in graduate school. Brad had joined the Tech faculty as an engineering professor before Jamie’s arrival to Tech. Jamie spent just over a year working at the LSUHSC-Shreveport before finding research opportunities at Louisiana Tech in the biomedical engineering department. Most recently, Jamie became a member of the faculty in the School of Biological Sciences and has had the chance to again pursue her passions for basic biology research in the area of development and gene expression as well as to continue teaching and mentoring students and young scientists. Jamie has fit in well in her new position. “What I appreciate most about an academic position at an institution like Tech is the opportunity to expose students to learning opportunities in and out of the classroom and to work collaboratively with my colleagues. In the lab, I currently have six students (three undergraduates and three graduate students) and I am working to engage them in collaborations and interdisciplinary research as much as I can. Research today is not done by individuals with a limited focus, but by people who can reach across disciplines and work productively with other scientists to advance science and it is important to me to teach my students that as early as possible.” Jamie’s research program focuses on how gene expression changes during development or under the influence of environmental factors. She uses mouse embryonic stem cells, a cell type that can become any of almost 200 different types of cells, to represent the earliest stages of development, as well as human mesenchymal stem cells, a type of adult stem cell with great therapeutic interest isolated from human bone marrow or fat tissue. Jamie collaborates with Dr. Mary Caldorera-Moore in biomedical engineering on a project related to tissue engineering and with Dr. Bruce Bunnell and his colleagues at Tulane University in the program of Regenerative Medicine for her work with adult stem cells. This year, Jamie has organized a year-long seminar series to engage students in learning about research outside of the University while extending her own collaborative networks. She has brought in nationally prominent scholars to present these seminars. Seminars have been well-attended, with the last exceeding 80 attendees and filling the University Hall auditorium. These speakers meet with Tech faculty and administrators during their visit, and also visit with our students and discuss research, careers, and graduate programs. Jamie has received positive feedback from both faculty and students and will again be working on a series for next year with help from Dr. Caldorera-Moore. Jamie enjoys teaching upper level undergraduate and graduate courses, including Research Methods and Medical Ethics. In the spring quarter, she is working with Dr. Jeffry Shultz to teach a course on the human genome. Jamie said, “The ability to teach on a topic that interests me and is so relevant for our students is really exciting. A course like this will provide the opportunity to demonstrate how the biology they have learned throughout their time at Tech contributed to the human genome project and everything that has come since. We hope to show students how the technology that led to the genome projects has had and will continue to have an influence in their life and help them to understand the complexities associated with collecting this amount of information.” Jamie still enjoys running, even though it is no longer for competitive purposes. She and Brad take advantage of the beautiful and challenging trails at Lincoln Parish Park and meet with some other members of the Tech faculty and occasionally students on the weekends to get in some miles.