Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

Jennifer Shemansky, B.S. ’08

Biologist/Support Scientist, National Center of Toxicological Research
Major(s): Biology, Chemistry

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

I got my Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, concentration in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Maryland, College Park. My graduate thesis focused on exploring the role of Arabidopsis EIN2, in particular the N-terminal domain, in ethylene signaling.

Currently, I am a biologist/support scientist at the National Center of Toxicological Research (NCTR) which is part of the FDA.

Can you translate your work for the general public?

Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone important in all stages of plant growth and development. However, it is most well known for its role in fruit ripening. As a Ph.D. student, I studied one of the major regulator proteins in the ethylene signaling pathway, EIN2. We know that it plays a major role because the ein2 mutants are the most ethylene insensitive of all ethylene insensitive mutants. The second half of EIN2 (C-terminal domain) is considered the ethylene signaling domain, but not much is known about the first half of the protein (the N-terminal domain). The focus of my thesis research was to better understand the role of the ER membrane bound first half (N-terminal domain) of the EIN2 and how it plays a role in ethylene signaling.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

Honestly, I decided to get involved in research as an undergraduate because I wanted to build up my CV. I thought I wanted to go to medical school. However, I actually enjoyed research a lot more than I thought I would. I ended up doing as many research projects as I could while I was at Buffalo State. Research was fun to me and I realized that medical school wasn't really what I wanted. These experiences inspired me to pursue graduate school and an eventual career in research.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

My undergraduate research experiences most certainly did influence me! They helped give me lab skills I would have not obtained in my classes as well as the mindset of an independent researcher, which is absolutely necessary for grad school. I am not sure I would have survived graduate school without doing undergraduate research first. Plus, I never really considered research as a career before. Ironically, I am a biologist now and do research. But, I had to try working in the lab and working through the scientific process to realize that it was what I wanted to do. What I actually enjoy doing. I must admit, I had some amazing mentors along the way, which really did make a huge difference as well.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

I did three projects as an undergraduate student:

1. Looking at methyl mercury levels in Common loon feathers. - Dr. Alexander Nazarenko - Presented at AAAS annual conference in St. Louis, MO
2. Genotyping and molecular sex determination of Bald Eagles using cross-species amplification - Dr. Amy McMillan - Presented at Midwest Ecology and Evolution conference, Kent, OH
3. The effect of hsp110.2 and 110.3 on lifespan in C.elegans. - Dr. Gregory Wadsworth

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Dr. Amy McMillan, Dr. Alexander Nazarenko, Dr. Gregory Wadsworth