As the Mississippi INBRE Research Scholar (MIRS) to place the highest in the undergraduate poster competition at Mississippi IDeA/EPSCoR Conference 2022, we interviewed Perriann Smith about her summer research experience. From Madison, Miss., Smith is 20 years old and attends The University of Southern Mississippi as an undergraduate biology major with a biomedical emphasis and minor in chemistry. This summer, she chose to work under the mentorship of Dr. Jorge Vidal at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, Miss. An Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at UMMC, Dr. Vidal’s research focuses on the molecular pathogenesis of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Smith won 3rd place in the STEM Laboratory Poster Competition at MS IDeA/EPSCoR Conference 2022 with her presentation “Hydrogen peroxide produced by Streptococcus pneumoniae through pyruvate oxidase (SpxB) catalyzes the oxidation of hemoglobin and the formation of a potential ferryl radical.” 

  • Why did you choose the MIRS program?  
    • Smith: “I thought that Mississippi INBRE would be the perfect place to immerse myself in real research. I knew MIRS would be perfect because it’s a professional development opportunity that doubles as a safe place to make mistakes while still learning.”
  • What skills have you gained from participating in the program, and how do they factor into your future career? 
    • Smith: “I now have the skills to maintain a laboratory notebook and conduct experiments independently. Using electronic pipettes, centrifuge, autoclaves, and more are all second nature to me now. I am ecstatic to have gained such useful laboratory skills so early in life that will benefit me in my future biotechnology or research career.”
  • What was it like to work in Dr. Vidal’s laboratory? Thoughts about the experience? 
    • Smith: “I had the most amazing summer working in Dr. Vidal’s laboratory. Dr. Vidal, his graduate students, and other students like myself supplied me with a supportive and inclusive work environment. None of my questions ever went unanswered, and I was always learning something new. If I could work in Dr. Vidal’s lab again, I would say yes in a heartbeat. It was incredible all around.”
  • Congratulations on winning 3rd place in the STEM Laboratory Poster Competition at MS IDeA/EPSCoR Conference 2022. How did it feel to see all your hard work come to fruition in such a big way? 
    • Smith: “Thank you! I am so thankful and happy about placing in the competition. I think the award displays the work of those who taught and guided me through my experiments. I am just as proud of them as I am of myself.”
  • Favorite memory from this summer? 
    • Smith: “It is hard to pick just one, but I would have to say getting to do experiments alongside the friends I made in the lab. The environment was always happy, positive, and fun so there isn’t just one memory that sticks out to me.”
  • Do you have any advice for students considering applying for the program next year?
    • Smith: “I would encourage anyone thinking of applying to go for it. I truly didn’t think that I would even get a placement in the program, but I ended up winning an award. Believe in yourself and know what you are capable of in the application, but more importantly, have that mindset throughout your work in the summer. Being confident in the lab and trusting yourself is crucial to being able to make the most out of any learning environment.”
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    • Smith: “In 10 years, I hope to be a practicing physician or working in biotechnology. I think that Mississippi INBRE has been essential to providing me with skills I can use towards any path I choose.”

Our sincere gratitude goes out to Smith for participating in the interview, as well as Dr. Vidal for his continued excellence as a MIRS mentor. We’d like to wish good luck to Smith on her future career in the medical industry. We know she’ll excel no matter where she goes.

See photos from this year’s program.