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Brittany Prioleau
Name: Brittany Prioleau
Residence: Rock Hill
Degree: Biology
Occupation: Heart Research

Brittany Prioleau
Brittany Prioleau arrived at Winthrop a shy teenager from a rural South Carolina town without any interest in science.

Four years later, she’s preparing to take the stage in July and present research before an annual gathering of some of the nation’s top developmental biologists.

Prioleau, who graduated in spring 2014, is among 11 undergraduate research fellows nationally chosen for CHOOSE Development!, a research training program sponsored by the National Science Foundation through the Society for Developmental Biology.

But Prioleau’s passion for science sparked much earlier, in an introductory biology course at Winthrop.

“The relationship between what the professor talked about in class to everyday life just made me fascinated with the overall study of biology,” she said.

Soon after, she was accepted into the university’s McNair Scholars program, a program that prepares first-generation and underrepresented students for Ph.D. studies.

Ever since, Prioleau’s been working with Heather Evans Anderson, a Winthrop assistant professor of biology whose research focuses on heart development.

“I see her as a mentor,” Prioleau said. “I look at what she’s done in the past and hope to kind of follow in the same footsteps. But, beside a mentor, I look at her more as a friend.”

Prioleau studies how hearts regenerate by dissecting sea squirts, soft, gelatinous, tube-shaped sea creatures, commonly used in scientific study. Her task is to find how a pair of particular genes relate to that development.

While Evans Anderson describes the research as basic science, she sees it as a crucial piece of a larger biological puzzle.

“If you can understand how the heart builds itself in a normal embryo…you can take those basic principles and apply them to, say, stem cells, for example, to get them to build the layers and artificially build a heart,” Evans Anderson said.

Looking ahead, Prioleau plans to continue working in biology. She’s considering industry jobs, but is pretty sure graduate school will come first.

Looking back on her Winthrop experience, Prioleau points to moments that shaped the career path she’s chosen to follow. There was CHOOSE Development!, the McNair Scholars program, that introductory biology class. But there’s much more than that.

“The environment at Winthrop…allows you to open your eyes to different aspects of life that you never thought to see,” said Prioleau, who grew up on a farm in St. Stephen. “You see different cultures, different social environments. It allows you to be more open minded about a lot of things that you would never normally be open minded about.”

Last updated 06/25/14

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