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Student Spotlight - Jessica Clemente

MD/PhD Medical Scientist Program Student

Jessica Clemente

Laboratory of Dr. Eric Tucker

I’m from Sinking Spring, PA, where I graduated 3rd in my high school class of 450 students.  I then completed my undergraduate studies in 3 years with a 4.0 GPA from Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA.  I spent two years after college working as a Postbac IRTA at the NIH, in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics at NIAAA.  In 2013 I began my MD/PhD training at WVU, and joined the Tucker Lab in 2015.

I have always been interested in science, and won my first science fair award for my high school project titled “Why deer don’t drink soda.”  The brain has always fascinated me, and I jokingly told my parents I would find the cure for Alzheimer’s while they could still remember it was me that found it.  I began my research experience in undergrad, where I studied the volatile properties of garlic, and published my thesis work as first author!  After developing my passion for research at Mercyhurst, I transitioned to Neuroscience research at the NIH.  There, I analyzed genetic variations in the Dopamine D4 receptor in our non-human primate colony, which resulted in my second publication.

My current research in the Tucker Lab aims to understand the involvement of the c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase (JNK) Pathway in cortical development.  We use mouse models to understand the interactions of interneurons, excitatory neurons, and other neuronal structures throughout development.  I love the work our lab performs, and I have been able to learn many techniques including live cell imaging, embryonic mouse brain dissection, and slice culture experiments.  For two years in a row, I won 1st place for my Poster Presentation at the Van Liere Research Day at WVU!  Recently I successfully defended my proposal, and just submitted my first F30 grant application.

My career goal is to become a clinical researcher in the Neuroscience field.  I want to run my own laboratory, and train future MD and PhD students.  I hope to bring bench research to the bedside, and bridge current gaps to help develop better treatments for devastating neurological disorders.

When I am not in the lab, I enjoy spending time with my family, being outdoors, knitting, and cheering on the Mountaineers.  My boyfriend has been very supportive of my crazy career path, and has helped keep me sane.  We enjoy hunting, shooting, attempting to raise a cat, vacationing, eating, watching sports (not always the same team), and even bowling in a beer league together.  My family has been a non-stop support system, and the time we spend together eating, finding Easter eggs (thanks mom and dad), celebrating each others’ accomplishments, enjoying holiday traditions, and eating even more, are absolutely invaluable.  I’m incredibly blessed to be in the position I am today, and can’t wait for the journey that lies ahead.

Clemente family photo

Clemente hunting

Clemente and cat