Congratulations to Raegan Bostic, Recipient of an NIH F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award

Raegan Bostic was awarded an individual predoctoral NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in May 2022. Prior to starting grad school, Raegan worked as a laboratory technician in the Rutkowski lab here at UVA, where she conducted research in cancer immunology. After two years gaining experience, she applied to grad school. In her first year as a BIMS student, she completed her rotations and then joined the Parichy Lab in the Biology Department where she is studying stem cells, developmental genetics, and the evolution of the adult form using Zebrafish as a model organism. Raegan is interested in understanding how cells differentiate and interact to form complex tissues and organs. More specifically, she is studying how pigment cells in the skin of Zebrafish grow and organize themselves into the light and dark stripes characteristic of this organism. The alternating dark and light stripes are a result of careful organization of dark brown pigment cells (melanophores) and orange pigment cells (xanthophores) in the deepest layer of the skin. She uses genomic sequencing, single-cell transcriptomics, and confocal imaging to assess the genetic architecture of functional iridophores, the specialized, iridescent pigment cells responsible for the stripes. When asked what motivates her scientific pursuits, Raegan indicated that she has always been amazed at the complexity of life. It brings her immense joy to understand some of these processes in great detail (or too much detail, if you ask her family!). But she is not only interested in the pursuit of knowledge for herself. Instead, she is inspired to teach others what she learns, and to participate as much as possible in scientific discourse with fellow science enthusiasts. She took note of the rampant distrust of the scientific community that was revealed during the Covid-19 pandemic. As someone directly participating in research, she understands that our scientific community is driven by the pursuit of knowledge rather than by agendas or ulterior motives. However, she recognizes that this message is often lost when new scientific findings are relayed to the public. One of her professional goals is to help bridge the communication gap between academia and the public through changes to the incentivization system in academic research. Her proposed approach involves establishing an informal mode of sharing research findings such that discoveries are more readily accessible to the scientific community, which should, in turn, facilitate greater support from the general public. It is Raegan’s goal to formulate a career around these ideas and bring well-deserved enhancements to the field of academic research. In addition to her research, Raegan is involved in several programs aimed at improving STEM training at UVA and beyond. She is one of the co-founders of the Cell Biology Anti-Racism Initiative and currently serves as VP of Communications for the Biology Outreach and Inclusion Program. You can find their tent next time you are at the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market and enjoy some free science activities!