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Undergraduate Student Research Spotlight: Alexandria Mabry

Biology major Alex Mabry in the lab.

Meet Alex Mabry, an undergraduate student pursuing a BA in biology with minors in chemistry and psychology. She is a biology mentor for freshmen, a teaching assistant for nonmajor freshman biology labs, and conducts research in Professor Colin Jackson’s lab to determine how invasive species can dominate aquatic ecosystems.

Why the Asian Clam, Corbicula—one of the most important aquatic invaders to take over aquatic environments and drive out native freshwater mussels—is so successful is unclear, and research in Dr. Jackson’s lab is looking to see if the gut microbiome of Corbicula plays a role in its success as an invader. Working with postdoctoral researcher Dr. Marlène Chiarèllo, Alex is investigating how the microbiome of Corbicula relates to the morphology of its shell to determine if age or growth characteristics are a factor in its gut microbial community.

Alex also has other research interests and spent the summer at Texas Tech University, as a research intern examining interactions between HIV and COVID-19 infections.

How did your interest in biology develop?

I became interested in studying biology in middle school after I got to go to a science camp. That was the first time I was exposed to microbiology, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since.
My first year on campus I was still very interested in microbiology when I approached Dr. Jackson to ask about any ideas he had for research… Fast forward three years later and I’m still working in his lab!

Talk about your college experience as a biology major and work participating in research.

I’ll say firstly, being a biology major is definitely not easy, but it is always interesting. Biology has completely changed the way I look at things around me. That said, even while I was learning so many new concepts in my classes, it wasn’t until I started doing research through Dr. Jackson‘s lab that I truly was able to understand biology in a hands-on way. Being able to work in a lab and actually perform procedures and experiments that we read about in class is humbling.

Discuss your career goals.

After graduation, I hope to attend medical school. I am currently applying to medical school and I hope to possibly pursue a dual MD/PhD program.

While I’m still not sure on what specialty I want to pursue, I know I want to work in a rural or underserved area. I hope to be an advocate for my future patients and go beyond the walls of the clinic to truly make a difference in my community. My small hometown has done nothing but support me, and I hope to be able to support a similar community in the future.