Hong Fellowship Awarded to Alexandria Gillespie

Alexandria Gillespie, the winner of this year’s Hong Award, was an undergraduate in the Animal Science program in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, beginning her research in the Baldwin laboratory as a junior. Because of her natural aptitude for research she was recruited initially as an Master’s of Science degree student but then converted to the PhD program. She has been involved in adapting innovative techniques used for human research for food animal research, specifically immunological research in cattle.

Most of her work to date has involved molecular biology including adapting specialized next generation sequencing and analysis of lymphocyte receptors to the bovine system using individually tagged mRNA transcripts that allows more precise quantitation of gene expression. Recently she has turned some of her energy to microscopy using both STORM and imaging flow cytometry or Amnis to analyze the interaction between receptor molecules on bovine gamma delta T lymphocytes to understand how these cells are activated to respond to pathogenic bacteria. Under the guidance of a post-doctoral fellow, Maria Gracia Gevasi, she developed 2-color STORM imaging that shows the direct interaction of individual molecules on the lymphocyte surface. She has shown that individual T cell receptor molecules interact with the molecules known as WC1 that act to bind pathogens and augment cell activation and response. Using Amnis she has been able to show these molecules come in close enough contact to cause fluorescence resonance energy transfer between them after being activated by bacteria. After activation these cells contribute to the protective immune response. Understanding how gamma delta T lymphocytes are activated will allow development of mechanisms to incorporate this into vaccine design. Alie has been fearless in applying the latest technologies to her studies and represents the upcoming generation of modern animal or veterinary scientists.

The Frances and Chou-Chu Hong, DVM, PhD Graduate Fellowship in Veterinary and Animal Sciences was established by two brothers, Jerry C. Hong (’93 Isenberg School of Management), and Jason I. Hong to recognize the education and training at UMass Amherst of their father, Chou-Chu Hong DVM, PhD, who recently stepped down as President of Taiwan’s Level Biotechnology, Inc. Dr. Hong, who earned his PhD at UMass Amherst in veterinary and animal sciences in 1973, has brought international distinction to his alma mater. A former faculty member at Medical University of South Carolina, he was invited by Taiwan’s National Science Council to help establish its Center for Toxicity and Preclinical Sciences and to serve as the director of Taiwan’s National Laboratory Animal Breeding and Research Center. A faculty member of National Taiwan University and the Academia Sinica, he has served as President of the Chinese Society of Laboratory Animal Sciences and a member of Taiwan’s Development Center for Biotechnology.