Lyon junior published in scientific journal

Lyon College Junior Hannah Zang

A Lyon College student had her research published in a scientific journal.

Junior Hannah Zang, of McKinney, Texas, conducted research with Dr. Nagayasu Nakanishi at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville last summer with the IDeA Network for Biomedical Excellence (INBRE). This February, their research was featured in an article in Frontiers in Endocrinology. 

“I’m still kind of in shock,” Zang said. “I didn’t really expect this because publishing research is one of those things you hear is incredibly rare as an undergrad.”

She and Nakanishi studied the function of a novel neuropeptide in sea anemones. Neuropeptides are small protein-like molecules (peptides) used for functions such as metamorphosis, the process of transforming from one to distinct stage to another.

After the project concluded, Nakanishi presented some of his and Zang’s findings at conferences, compiled the data and put the experimental process into words for the article. Zang reviewed a draft of the article last fall and helped him edit it. They then submitted it for the peer review process.

Two reviewers and an editor looked over the article and submitted comments on how to improve it. After Zang and Nakanishi sent in the edits, the reviewers approved the article, and it was accepted for publication in Frontiers in Endocrinology.

“It’s a free scientific journal,” she said. “That’s nice because for most you have to pay to read the articles.”

During the research process, Nakanishi worked on immunostaining while Zang used CRISPR-Cas9, a new gene-editing technology.

“This technology wasa big reason I joined the lab. It’s been a hot topic in the science community for the past couple months because the idea is eventually you may be able to treat a variety of human diseases.”

Using a CRISPR-Cas9 mediated approach, Zang would completely “knock out” the gene responsible for producing the neuropeptide in sea anemones and see how they were different from those with it. While they originally thought the neuropeptide was unique to sea anemones, they discovered that it was also present in other animals in the Cnidarian phylum, such as jellyfish.

“My evolution and genetics courses with Dr. Cassia Oliveira helped prepare me for this research.”

Zang got to present some of her findings in January at the Society for Integrative Comparative Biology conference in Austin, Texas.

“It was intimidating because I was the only undergrad in my session,” she said. “There was a guy before me that was from Harvard and the guy right after me was from Stanford.”

She will present her research again at the Alpha Chi National Convention in March in Albuquerque, NM. 

Zang encourages Lyon students interested in publishing research to share that goal with their professors.

“They can’t read your mind, so it helps to say that is one of your goals. That does mean getting results for a paper, so you’re going to have to work toward that.”

Zang plans to attend medical school to study osteopathic medicine and is looking into dual programs that allow her to continue doing research.

“I always think it’s important to share your findings with the scientific community, so I hope to continue doing that.”