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Mercedes Gonzalez

Undergraduate Major: Biology and Molecular Biology & Microbiology

McNair Mentor:
Dr. Peter Molnar, Nanoscience Technology Center, Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences

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Mercedes Gonzalez

Mercedes Gonzalez was born in West New York, New Jersey. Her research in the past has consisted of the behavioral and neuro-chemical responses of juvenile vs. adult rats in novel vs. familiar environments. She is an active member of the UCF Research and Mentoring Program (RAMP), the UCF Pre-Med American Medical Student Association (AMSA), The Pre-Professional Medical Society (PPMS), the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS), Pulso Caribe – A Latin Ballroom Dance Club, the Golden Key International Honors Society and is a mentor for the UCF Summer Research Academy. She currently works for the Nanoscience Technology Center as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. Ms. Gonzalez is also involved with the Greater Orlando GK-12 Fellowship, funded by NSF, as an Undergraduate Fellow who "learns and teaches science through inquiry.” Ms. Gonzalez will pursue a M.D./Ph.D. in Neuroscience so that she can conduct research for a prominent Medical University. The following is an abstract of research Mercedes completed as an undergraduate at UCF:

Title: Characterization of Motorneurons

Conducted at the University of Central Florida as part of the McNair Scholars Program.

Mentor: Dr. Peter Molnar, Nanoscience Technology Center, Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences

Abstract:This ongoing study will allow for the Nanoscience Technology Center to co-culture central nervous system (CNS) motorneurons (MN) from fetal spinal cord stem cells (FS) with muscle tissue and use this in-vitro model for further studies of the motorneuron-muscle interactions at the neuromuscular junction. The success of these studies would allow us to produce an in vitro model of this neuronal network. However, there is a gap in the scientific literature about the morphological characterization of MNs, especially for MNs differentiated from human stem cells. It would be a great contribution not only for the laboratory’s understanding and time efficiency but also for the rest of the scientific community. Once those morphological parameters are uncovered, the discovery of MNs and their pathways will be much easier to study. In our co-culture we do not simply just have MNs differentiated from the stem cells, there are many types of neurons which includes glial, somatic MN, visceral MN, astrocytes, and various other types of neuronal cells. The question is how we can identify somatic MN, or any MNs for that matter, from the rest of the nervous material. It is known that MNs are cholinergic, exhibit excitatory projections to the neuromuscular junction, and attach to muscle tissue. It is also known, from the literature, that markers such as ChAT, MAP2, and Hb9 can be used to stain MNs and then begin to morphologically characterize them by using computer software and other methods. If a better understanding about their morphological characteristics which set them apart from the rest, then it would be easier to isolate MNs from other cells with great ease.

References:
- Arber, S., B. Han, et al. (1999). "Requirement for the homeobox gene Hb9 in the consolidation of motor neuron identity." Neuron 23(4): 659-674.
- Miles, G. B., D. C. Yohn, et al. (2004). "Functional properties of motoneurons derived from mouse embryonic stem cells." Journal of Neuroscience 24(36): 7848-7858.