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Dr. Jeffrey Temple, assistant professor of biochemistry, supervises the work of Alex Mattheus, a junior biology major from Gonzales, one of the student research assistants in Southeastern’s West Nile research lab.
Dr. Michael Doughty, Associate Professor
Dr. Jeffrey Temple, Assistant Professor
At Southeastern, working in research labs is not a perk reserved for graduate students. The university is committed to providing hands-on research experiences to undergraduates as well.
In the lab of biochemists Michael Doughty and Jeffrey Temple, faculty and students are examining the West Nile virus with an eye toward finding an inhibitor that will block the spread of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness. Their research is being funded by a $90,000 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents.
Alex Mattheus, a junior biology major from Gonzales, finds her work in the West Nile
lab “not just a job,” but meaningful research that leads to a healthier, better quality
of life in the mosquito-laden deep South.
Student research assistants such as Alex Mattheus, a junior biology major from Gonzales, are an integral part of the professors’ studies. “Alex and the others are doing things in the lab that 99.9 percent of students only study or read about in class,” Temple said.
Mattheus was “recruited” for the West Nile lab when Temple extended the invitation to all of his freshmen chemistry students.
“I was very impressed that he offered the opportunity to anyone in his class,” she said. “After all, I was a freshman biology major; it’s not like I was a senior majoring in chemistry! By the end of the semester, I was in his lab working. Everything relates to what I am doing in class and that’s really exciting.”
“Working here is not just research experience, not just a job,” she added. “It’s a project to help stop a virus from hurting a lot of people. West Nile virus is not a pretty thing. The work we do here is going to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Temple said that in 2005 seven percent of the people infected with the West Nile virus died as opposed to a less than one percent fatality rate for illnesses such as influenza.
“Mosquitoes are definitely a problem here in the deep South,” he said. “If we are successful in finding an inhibitor of West Nile virus replication processes, then, while we cannot prevent people from getting the disease, we can stop the virus from being replicated once it enters a host.”
“Right now, the only treatment for West Nile virus so far is to spray for mosquitoes,” Temple said. “I feel certain that we will find an inhibitor that will block the virus. Then it will be up to the drug companies to develop a drug that we can use on humans.”