By Wendy Sarubbi | July 24, 2014 1:22 pm

Graduate student Philip Adams returns to the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences fresh from two months working at the University of Vienna, Austria where he trained in Ribonucleic acid (RNA) biology techniques. RNA is a family of large biological molecules that perform vital roles in the coding, decoding, regulation and expression of genes.

Adams, a Ph.D. candidate, works in assistant professor Dr. Mollie Jewett’s lab and researches Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. RNA biology helps scientists identify and understand the infection process. His work caught the attention of other researchers during a research conference in January where he presented, and Adams was invited to train at the lab of renowned scientist Dr. Renee Schroeder at the University of Vienna for the summer.

Although the European form of Lyme disease, known as Borrelosis, differs from the U.S. strain, the symptoms of the disease — flu-like symptoms followed by arthritic, cardiac and neurological issues — are similar. Austria leads European nations in the incidence of Borrelosis with more than 20,000 reported cases a year. In the U.S., more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Center for Disease Control annually, but the real number may be as high as 300,000. Lyme disease is spread by a deer tick bite, and one of its telltale signs is the bull’s-eye like red rash that appears at the site of the bite.

Adams underwent four weeks of intensive training and had six weeks to conduct research, concentrating on RNA biology techniques. His training will help in studying and measuring the amount of specific RNA molecules in the bacterial cell. “These techniques will allow him and my lab to ask and answer questions about those genes that are specifically required for Borrelia burgdorferi to cause disease,” said Dr. Jewett.

Philips, who earned his undergraduate degree from West Virginia Wesleyan University, was among 12 international students working in Dr. Schroeder’s lab. He also had an opportunity to present his research at a new seminar series that integrated science and music. To illustrate his talk, Ticks to Humans: delineating gene regulation during Lyme disease,” Adams passed around a live tick in a container to show the audience how Lyme disease is spread.

“There were students from Austria, Russia, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and Italy,” said Adams who was impressed with the collaborative nature of his international learning experience.

“It was a fantastic life experience for Philip.  He returns to my lab with even greater confidence in himself and his science,” said Dr. Jewett.

She believes that international collaborations and training opportunities are extremely valuable for the College of Medicine. “It was an honor for Philip to be invited to train at the University of Vienna and represent the University of Central Florida on an international stage,” she added.

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