Biology Student Wins First Place for Research

Las Vegas, N.M. –New Mexico Highlands biology student Marcus Garcí­a won first place for his research at the Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunities annual conference in Tempe, Ariz.

Garcí­a, a 24-year-old Las Vegas native, will graduate May 11 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry.

“My research focused on identifying genes required for spermatogenesis — sperm development — in a mutant mouse strain, ” Garcí­a said. “We mapped four genes in the chromosome five region of the DNA that might cause infertility.

“We found that three of the genes are likely not causing male infertility, and suspect the fourth gene is responsible for the infertility. More research is needed. Genetic mouse models of infertility are useful in identifying genes important in spermatogenesis and provide clues to human male infertility,” Garcí­a said.

Biology professor Carol Linder advised Garcí­a for his genetic research study. He also did the analysis in her reproductive biology lab, where Garcí­a has worked as a student assistant for two years.

“Working in Dr. Linder’s lab gave me valuable research methods and analysis experience. I learned techniques like genotyping, protein isolation and quantification, animal colony maintenance, tissue collection, and sperm analysis,” Garcí­a said.

He added that working with Linder also provided opportunities for him to present his research at two other conferences. The most prestigious was when he accompanied his professor to the 45th annual Society for the Study of Reproduction at Penn State University last July.

The Society for the Study of Reproduction honored Garcí­a as a Bourrough’s Wellcome Fellow and awarded him a grant that helped with the conference expenses.

“Marcus has been a great member of our research team and is hoping to continue in research at the University of New Mexico,” Linder said. “I think he received a strong foundation here at Highlands that will benefit him greatly as he pursues the next step of his career.”

Each semester, Garcí­a works two to three jobs to pay for his education and living expenses. This semester, he is working in Linder’s lab, in a work-study position in the university’s Financial Aid Office, and as a prep cook at the United World College — USA.

He said with his busy schedule, the one-on-one help his biology professors at Highlands provide is especially important.

“My biology experience at Highlands has been awesome. The professors are extremely knowledgeable, with so many different areas of expertise. They have an open-door philosophy and are always willing to help. They want you to succeed,” Garcí­a said.

Garcí­a plans to participate in the post-baccalaureate research program at UNM, and apply to the university’s biomedical graduate research program. His long-term goal is to complete his Ph.D. in neuroscience.