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"When you are born, your brain is gooey lump of neurons and support cells," says Tristan Gonzalez-Sanz, who is currently working on his Honors thesis in Neurobiology. As you develop, your brain creates pathways of memory, for instance, recognition of specific odors. "With repetition, the signal travels down the same set of neurons over and over, thus helping you identify the smell. Certain proteins in the neurons develop these memory pathways."

For his thesis project, Tristan is attempting to locate a specific protein—CaMKII—that may assist in establishing memory pathways by adding phosphate to another support protein. To begin, he adds specialized drugs to live tissues that will activate the protein. He then chemically freezes the cells, which locks them in position. To target the protein, he adds fluorescent antibodies, which allows him to visualize its location.

All of his work will result in his thesis, "The Expression, Location, and Activation of CaMKII in the Olfactory Bulb."

His guide during two semesters of Directed Individual Study and another two of Honors thesis work has been Dr. Paul Trombley. "An exceptional teacher," says Tristan. "He has played a vital role in my academic development and has been crucial in my development as a researcher." Tristan now serves as the professor's teaching assistant for Biological Science I.

"Research is important to me, to be able to carry out experiments whenever I have some free time," Tristan explains, "but teaching also brings me a great deal of satisfaction. To take all the knowledge I have gained over the past three years, and convey it to someone else, then see the look of comprehension—that is a priceless feeling."

During his first semester of tutoring for BioMentors, an organization that provides free tutoring for undergraduates who are taking science courses, one particular student visited his office repeatedly. "She was not performing up to her standards and wanted extra help. I thought about how to help her remember and understand every concept, inventing mnemonics, having her diagram entire biological systems, and then quizzing her on the finer details. In the end, she made a huge improvement. The personal gratification I felt was a milestone in my life."

Tristan's long-term plan is to attend medical school. But, he says, "I hope to continue tutoring Biology students because I've developed a passion for teaching and want to include it in my future."

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