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Eastern Washington University
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Cheney, WA 99004
phone: 509.359.6200 (campus operator)

Jennifer Graham

Acknowledgement to Mentor: I would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Luis Matos, for recognizing my determination and introducing me to the McNair Scholar's program and inviting me to conduct research in his lab. As a first-generation student, the entailment to becoming an exceptional candidate for graduate school eluded me. With his encouragement and guidance, through all the ups and downs, I am better prepared to go to the next level with my education. Thank you Luis, for having confidence in me!







Jennifer Graham is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Biology. She is interested in studying the impact of disease on the nervous system and how it affects human physiology. She is working toward earning her Ph.D. to continue her scientific research as well as educate others. Her current research as an undergraduate focuses on how the Sigma virus affects male reproductive success in Drosophila following a host shift. She will have a poster presentation at the EWU Student Research and Creative Works Symposium this spring. Her research for the poster focuses on how aspartame affected development in Drosophila.

Jennifer grew up in Moses Lake, Washington. She earned her G.E.D. in 2000 and proceeded to get her certification as a nursing assistant. She enjoyed caring for the elderly. The experience made her realize that she wanted to do more for people, compelling her to continue her education by attending the local community college. At Big Bend Community College, she was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She earned her Associates of Arts and Science degree and transferred to Eastern Washington University in the fall of 2011. Jennifer will be the first in her immediate and extended family to earn a Bachelor's degree. Continual education is her goal even after she finishes graduate school.

Jennifer is a dedicated student and has made the Dean's list four times at EWU. She is currently Treasurer for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. One of their goals is to reach out to American Indian high school students and provide information about going to college and majoring in a STEM discipline.

Jennifer would like to attribute her educational drive and success to her son, Michael.


Dr. Luis Matos, Professor, Department of Biology, EWU

TRiO McNair Research Internship:___________________________________________________________

A genetic bottleneck produces low genetic variation in the sigma rhabdovirus (2013)

The dogma that RNA viruses exhibit high mutation rates is long established. However, genome sequencing of the sigma rhabdovirus infecting Drosophila melanogaster suggests that this virus has a low mutation rate. Here we used the D. melanogaster/sigma virus system to determine whether this rhabdovirus is actually producing lots of mutations but then are eliminated from the fly line. We tested the hypothesis that a bottleneck exists at the point where the sigma virus is passed from the mother into the egg such that only a select genotype is passed on. Such a situation would give the appearance that mutation did not occur.

Infected female flies were allowed to oviposit and subsequently they and their eggs were collected and frozen. Female of increasing age (5, 10 and 20 days old) and their eggs were collected. RNA was extracted from the flies and the eggs. The viral RNA genome was reverse transcribed. For each sample, a region of the genome (~1000bp of the coat protein) was amplified by PCR and sequenced. The virus sequences from females of different ages and their respective eggs were compared using the Geneious 5.6 software package.

As we expected, the viral RNA extracted from the flies increased in genetic diversity in progressively older flies. Additionally, the viral sequences from eggs (regardless of maternal age) were more similar to those sequences from other eggs than the viral sequences obtained from the mothers. Similarly, the virus from adult flies was more similar to virus from the other adult flies (regardless of age) than to the virus collected from the eggs. Taken together these data suggest that, as with other viruses, sigma does exhibit high mutation rates but a genetic bottleneck is occurring when the virus is passed from the mother to egg. The mechanism for this bottleneck is unclear. One possibility is that the pole cells are infected early on in development and only viruses possessing the correct surface proteins are taken into these cells.

Conference Presentations:_________________________________________________________________

  • 29th Annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Cheney, WA (2015)
  • Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ (2014)

Aspartame: Good or bad?,

  • 16th Annual Student Research and Creative Works Symposium, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, Washington (2013)

Honors and Awards:_____________________________________________________________________

  • Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program Selected Scholar, Awarded $2800 for completing a summer research project and seminar participation (2013)
  • Muckleshoot Scholarship, Awarded $5000 for demonstrating excellence as a Native American student. (2013)
  • Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Big Bend Community College, Leadership development and community service.(2007-2009) 
  • President/Vice President's List, Big Bend Community College (2006-2008)

Graduate School Acceptances:_____________________________________________________________

  • University of Arizona - PhD program in Biological & Biomedical Sciences


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