Student Spotlight: Lauren Cusson

In her freshman year at UMaine, Lauren Cusson took a Phage Genome Discovery course, and suddenly her path to research became clear. “I then joined a virology research lab on campus my sophomore year and have learned so much from it.” She loves “being able to actually apply what I have learned and think outside the box.”

Cusson’s research is focused on the JC polyomavirus (JCPyV), which is “established in most of the adult population as a persistent, asymptomatic infection of the kidneys. In immunocompromised individuals, the virus can spread to the central nervous system, cause a lyctic infection, and progress to the fatal, demyelinating disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.” Cusson says her current project will enhance “our understanding of virus-host cell interactions.”

A faculty mentor is key for a successful research project. Cusson had nothing but praise for her own mentor, Dr. Melissa Maginnis. “Working with my faculty mentor really helped me to set and reach my goals. Dr. Maginnis made my research experience very enjoyable. If I was ever stuck, she would advise me and strategize different plans. It really helped maximize my productivity. She really created an amazing atmosphere for me, in which I was able to flourish.”

When asked what advice she would give to students who were thinking about getting involved with research, she said “before performing an experiment make sure to read background literature. In addition, the planning step for experiments are very important and should not be rushed. Being organized and keeping a thorough lab notebook will greatly help with planning and productivity.”