University of Southern Mississippi senior Matthew Planchard will have the unique opportunity to showcase his research in biochemistry to members of Congress as part of a special presentation this spring.
Planchard, a Pass Christian, Miss. native, was the only collegian from Mississippi chosen to participate in the 2012 CUR (Council on Undergraduate Research) Posters on the Hill Session set for April 24. Only 74 undergraduate research posters were selected from more than 850 applicants.
“I have never been to Washington D.C., and I am looking forward to visiting our historic capitol,” said Planchard, who expects to graduate in May. “I am a firm believer that greater scientific literacy and awareness among the electorate is an essential component for a successful modern society, and it is my hope that I can contribute to that in some small way.”
A chemistry and biological sciences double major, Planchard has conducted most of his research in the lab of Southern Miss Professor Vijay Rangachari, whose focus is the cause and effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Planchard’s research involves the effect of a natural product called betulinic acid on amyloid-beta, a pathogenic protein whose aggregation contributes to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“We have found that betulinic acid promotes rapid aggregation of amyloid-beta in vitro in such a way that highly toxic intermediate species are potentially bypassed,” said Planchard. “Because of betulinic acid’s pharmacological properties, it has significant potential for further research and eventual inclusion in our slowly growing arsenal of weaponry for combating Alzheimer’s.”
An Honors College student with a 3.954 grade point average, Planchard has his sights set on medical school where he hopes to pursue clinical research.