McNair Research Guiding Southeast Student Toward Future as Pathologist

The pesky microorganism associated with causing dental cavities is at the heart of McNair Research being conducted this summer by a Southeast Missouri State University student.

Breiona Catching, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, double majoring in microbiology and medical laboratory science, is participating in McNair Research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in the Diversity Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

She is researching the combined effects of Quercetin and Nicotine on the metabolic activity of Streptococcus mutans. Quercetin is a flavonoid and plant pigment found in tea, coffee, apples, berries, onions and greens, while Nicotine is an addictive chemical commonly produced by plants. Streptococcus mutans are the main microorganism associated with causing dental carries commonly known as cavities.

Catching is working under the guidance of Dr. Richard Gregory, professor of biomedical and applied sciences, preventive and community dentistry, and pathology and laboratory medicine in the Schools of Dentistry and Medicine at IUPUI. She spends about four hours in a lab each day conducting microbiology experiments and documenting her work in a lab notebook. The remainder of her days is spent researching and perfecting her writing.

“I have been improving my microbiology skills by learning new and updated techniques,” she said.

She says her summer experience with access to microbiologists is helping her network and make new connections. Having participated in McNair Research, Catching will now have the opportunity to attend research conference at little or no expense and receive stipends in the future.

“My experience as a McNair Scholar has been incredible, and I would encourage everyone that can to become one,” she said. “I have been afforded more opportunities than imaginable as a scholar.”

Being a McNair Scholar also has helped guide her in identifying her interest in pursuing a specialized pathology assistant program.

The McNair Scholars Program at Southeast encourages, supports and assists academically promising students who have been historically underrepresented in various fields to pursue education through the doctoral level. The program provides academic support, enhancement workshops, faculty mentoring, summer research experiences and preparation for graduate school to eligible juniors and seniors.

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is made possible through a U.S. Department of Education grant and enables Southeast’s TRIO/McNair Scholars Program to provide experience of scholarly research and graduate work, and collaborative opportunities with faculty as students prepare for graduate school.

At Southeast, Catching been treasurer of the Chemistry and Forensics Club, winner of the Miss Black and Gold Pageant, BRAND Academy participant and ambassador, a McNair Scholar and a McNair Heartland Conference presenter.

Last summer, Catching conducted cardiovascular research at the Medical University of South Carolina.

After graduating from Southeast, she hopes to apply to attend a pathology assistant program, earn a master’s degree and open her own practice as a traveling pathology assistant, visiting hospitals, mortuaries, laboratories and other facilities that analyze human specimens.

 Her experience this summer moves her one step closer to her goal. With a degree in microbiology, Catching says she will be equipped with knowledge about pathogens, and, as a medical laboratory scientist, she will have gained knowledge about different specimens caused by pathogens. She will combine those skills as a pathologist assistant to help in determining how much harm a particular pathogen may have caused.

“All of my degrees will play a crucial role in what I want to do in the future,” she said. “They deal with the human anatomy, which is something I am passionate about.”