Brett CockeStudent Research Spotlight - Brett Cocke

Brett Cocke won the undergraduate research award for the Harrison School of Pharmacy during the 2020 Auburn Research: Virtual Student Symposium.

Hometown: Hoover, Alabama
Major: Biomedical Sciences, pre-medicine
College: Sciences and Mathematics, Harrison School of Pharmacy
Department: Department of Drug Discovery and Development
Class year: 2020
Faculty mentor: Rajesh Amin

Reduced SIRT3 potentiates injury in the diabetic heart




What are you researching?
I am researching the relationship between mitochondrial protein acetylation and the increased damage seen in diabetic hearts following myocardial infarctions, also known as heart attacks. Specifically, we have looked at a mitochondrial protein called frataxin and examined how its decreased levels in diabetic hearts can lead to energy dysregulation and further injury. We have also studied how a mitochondrial deacetylase known as SIRT3 plays a role in the activity of frataxin, and the lab plans to continue to investigate this relationship in the future.

How could the results benefit individuals, agencies or companies?
Diabetes is at epidemic proportions in the United States, with the major form of fatality due to congestive heart failure triggered by myocardial infarction. If a mechanism is proven to exist between these mitochondrial proteins, then it will provide a strong foundation for research on drug therapies that can target this pathway and reduce the negative outcomes seen in diabetic individuals following heart attacks.

Tell us why you enjoy research.
Since joining the lab, I have enjoyed encountering many new and challenging concepts, and it has been exciting to use my love for learning to gain confidence with these topics. I look forward to finding new ways to grow as a student, an individual and a future physician, and research has allowed me to push myself outside of my comfort zone both academically and professionally as I have worked with and learned from those around me. I am very excited to get involved with both clinical and basic science research at the UAB School of Medicine.

What advice would you give to other students considering doing a research project?
When I was looking for research projects to get involved with, I looked through the faculty lists of various colleges and searched for professors that were doing research that was fascinating to me. Research takes time, and it is important to get involved with something that you are interested in learning more about.

Tell us about any hobbies or activities you enjoy.
I got involved in various on campus organizations throughout my time at Auburn, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to serve as vice president of my fraternity. Through this experience, I found a love for event planning and I was able to lead my organization in raising over $20,000 in 2019 for various philanthropies. In my free time, I love to hang out with my family and friends!

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