Zavana Schmit (UF)
Plasmodium falciparum, an obligate parasite, completes its life cycle in vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. The sexual form of the malaria parasite, gametocytes, are essential for malaria transmission. Therefore, understanding the gametocyte biology of the parasite is critical to bridge the knowledge gaps in malaria transmission biology. One of the key questions that remain elusive is to understand the sexual dimorphism in gametocytes and identification of sex-specific biomarkers to distinguish male and female mature (stage V) gametocytes.
I am an undergraduate student at the University of Florida majoring in Microbiology & Cell Science and minoring in Bioinformatics. In the future I hope to complete a PhD in a biology-related field, so I jumped at the opportunity to join the Dinglasan lab to gain research experience and learn about malaria transmission biology; specifically, the parasite sexual stages. My research project focuses on functional characterization of a putative P. falciparum gene that might be expressed in a sex-specific manner in mature gametocytes. We hypothesize that this putative gene might act as a biomarker for mature female gametocytes and thus plays a key role in sex partitioning in P.falciparum. Currently, I’m trying to clone and express this gene in a heterologous bacterial system. The reagents generated will be used to carry out further studies that will allow functional elucidation of this putative gene in the human malaria parasite.
Outside of the lab, I enjoy exploring Gainesville as well as playing tennis and volleyball.