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Florida State University


Calcium plays a vital role in the brain. It may act as a second messenger or serve a function in synaptic plasticity. Plasticity enables neurons to create new connections, a sign of a healthy brain. Any source of calcium to cells, therefore, is an important area of study.

James Enos performed research, using brain tissue from olfactory bulbs in rats, under the guidance of "superb teacher" Dr. Paul Trombley. James' Honors in the Major project involved the localization and function of membrane receptors in neurons. His first aim, important to provide further understanding of cellular anatomy, was to show that individual olfactory bulb neurons express both calcium-permeable and calcium-impermeable AMPA (Alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid) receptors. The results were positive—neurons do express both types. A second goal was to show that calcium-permeable AMPA receptors are commonly activated during synaptic transmission at a large number of synapses. These results were also positive.

But an interesting implication arose from his research. "AMPA receptors may be serving as a source of zinc to neurons, which, at high concentrations, is toxic. Zinc toxicity has been observed in stroke victims, which means calcium-permeable AMPA receptors are possible targets for medications designed to treat these victims."

His research enabled James to successfully complete his Honors in the Major Thesis, "Expression and Activity of Calcium-Permeable AMPA Receptors in the Rat Olfactory Bulb." Of the experience, he says, "It was exciting using scientific tools to elucidate a small piece of the puzzle that is brain function."

Because of his academic achievements, James was invited to teach—uncommon for an undergraduate—Biology Laboratory for Non-Majors. He says, "I have had great professors at Florida State. Becoming a TA gives me a chance to share what I have learned from them." Since James' future plans include not only becoming a physician but also teaching in medical school, he feels this is "a wonderful opportunity to begin his training."

In his spare time, James also trained to become a hospice volunteer—caring for patients who have been given a prognosis of one year or less to live. He worked with children who were coping with loss, provided respite for caregivers, and offered companionship to patients. What did he learn? "The importance of listening to patients. And the great impact that compassionate palliative care can have on patients who are close to death."

We think you'll agree—James will make a fine physician-teacher.

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