By Wendy Sarubbi | June 2, 2014 12:27 pm

UCF College of Medicine first-year student Lauren-Nicole Geib is on a mission to crack the code of obesity at the genetic level. With the help of an American Heart Association scholarship, she will spend the summer at Lake Nona’s Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute researching why some people are genetically able to metabolize fat better than others.

“I enjoy the process of research, and the potential to gain something valuable from it is what keeps me going.” Geib said.

Her research will focus on brown adipose tissue, also known as brown fat, which actually burns energy rather than storing it like regular blubber. Geib says people with brown fat are essentially genetically resistant to obesity. The goal of her research is to try to unlock this genetic difference and find therapies that would allow obesity-prone individuals to turn their “white fat” into the brown variety and live more heart-healthy lives.

“We’re hoping to see if we can induce certain genetic factors to promote the transition from one fat cell to another,” she explained. “This could help us identify certain therapy ideas to control obesity.”

Her curiosity about metabolism also fuels Geib’s Focused Inquiry Research Experience (FIRE) project, a two-year research effort required of all first-and second-year students at the College of Medicine.  “When I tell people about my research, I’m able to explain to them how UCF is unique and we have it as a part of our curriculum,” she said. “It’s just a way to spread the word about how awesome UCF is.”

Geib attributes much of her research passion to her mentor, Dr. Sheila Collins, a Sanford-Burnham metabolic disease specialist who alerted her to the $2,000 scholarship opportunity, and will support Gieb’s research throughout the summer. Dr. Collins called Gieb’s scholarship “a great award,” for a project that addresses a cutting-edge concept in biology. “These brown fat cells have the capacity to lower body weight, lower blood glucose and fats, and this way reduce risks for heart disease and diabetes,” she said.

Geib’s research with Dr. Collins begins this month. “I’m really excited to see where the research goes,” she said. “If we find something really important, it could really represent the College of Medicine on a national level.”

Post Tags

Related Stories