Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Penn State Science
You are here: Home About News Articles 2018 News Articles Latisha Franklin wins 2nd Place at the Restek Student Research Symposium

Latisha Franklin wins 2nd Place at the Restek Student Research Symposium

Main Content

Latisha Franklin 1

7/25/2018 – Latisha Franklin took second place in Restek’s first annual Student Research Symposium for her presentation on “Inborn Errors in Purine Metabolism Result in Neuromuscular Deficits: A Comparative Metabolic Approach.” Restek, a leading developer and manufacturer of chromatography columns and accessories that provides analysts around the world with innovative tools to monitor the quality of air, water, soil, foods, pharmaceuticals, chemical, and petroleum products, held its first annual Student Research Symposium at its global headquarters in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania as part of their commitment to developing the next generation of scientists. During the event, Restek chemists and leadership presented on gas chromatography in space, olfactory detection, and bile acid analysis by liquid chromatography. Student participants, in addition to learning more about STEM careers, prepared and presented posters on a variety of topics that were then judged by a panel of Restek technical experts, who were impressed by the high quality of the students work.

Latisha Franklin 2


Franklin, a Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Graduate Student grew up in Mobile, Alabama. Her family recognized her inquisitive nature early on and that along with her teacher from S.S Murphy High School is what guided Franklin to pursue a career in science and biochemistry & molecular biology. Her high school teacher taught science in a way that allowed Franklin to see that she was not only studying others, but also herself. Her teacher stressed how science directly applied to Franklin and caused her to ask questions on how her own body worked.




After high school, Franklin earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Following a visit to Penn State during the STEM Open House, Franklin’s interest in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department grew, as she felt that the green atmosphere of the university, both literally and figuratively, fit her lifestyle. She regarded the environment as honest, friendly and helpful and it was during a meeting with the then Department Head, Dr. Scott Selleck, that it was suggested that she apply to the department’s graduate program.

Upon arriving at University Park to begin her graduate studies, Franklin joined the Hanna-Rose Lab in January of 2017 and began studying how the loss of one specific gene causes muscle dysfunction and sterility. Amazed at how the smallest of changes can have such big consequences, Franklin’s specific interest in the lab is in the brain’s interaction with muscles and what happens at a molecular level when the brain is not able to appropriately communicate with them. Previous work in the lab had shown muscle dysfunction and sterility as a result of the loss of an enzyme called adsl-1.

Franklin’s work attempts to understand the molecular changes occurring that cause muscle dysfunction as a result of an inborn error in purine metabolism. Her work uses genetically tractable, cheap and efficient Caenorhabditis elegans, nematodes or worms, as a model organism to understand the significance of metabolites in purine metabolism and its contribution to muscle function. Purine metabolism is commonly known for its role in purine synthesis and energy storage. Her interest lies in the role of the purine nucleotide cycle in muscle function and how disrupting that cycle effects muscle function.

Her mentor, Dr. Wendy Hanna-Rose, commented on Franklin by saying, “I enjoy working with Latisha because of her motivation and resourcefulness. Her development as a scientist is proceeding exceptionally rapidly and I find it fun to watch her grow professionally and consider myself fortunate to be able to work with her. Latisha is proactive in preparing for every step of her training and is not shy about going out and finding out what she needs to know or how to do what she needs to do to answer her scientific questions. I have great confidence in her abilities and have no doubt that we will continue to see exciting things from her.”

So, what is next for Franklin? After graduating, she would like to take some time outside of the United States while working for the government or industry companies, possibly switching to academia in her later years. Her ultimate career goal is to open a research facility that mentors students, particularly minority students, of any age in the sciences in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama.  Franklin hopes to expose people to careers they wouldn't normally have access to early in life.