Wimberly is studying the nontraditional ways that organisms can respond to stress.
"The broad theme of my research revolves around identifying and defining the molecular pathways in which cells and tissues can detect and respond to this abiotic stress, specifically stress induced by perturbations in the barrier extracellular matrix.”
He explained that due to logistical and ethical complexities of doing biomedical research on higher vertebrae such as humans, it is necessary to find model organisms to fill this important research niche. C. elegans are a popular example of this.
“C. elegans are microscopic nematodes that have a simple, but fully developed nervous, muscular, digestive, and reproductive systems that share a lot of physiological characteristics with humans. Aside from physiology, humans and C. elegans both have around 20k protein coding genes, and about 60-80% of C. elegans coding genes have human homologs.”
The cuticle of C. elegans, akin to the exoskeleton of an insect or skin in humans, is the physical barrier between the multicellular organism’s extracellular matrix and its environment. This barrier is a critical area of study for understanding how different stressors impact the organism on a cellular level.
Wimberly aims to graduate at the end of the year and hopes to stay at UF for his postdoctoral research.
“It is not a particular topic or disease model that I am exclusively interested in researching… I can grow to be passionate about many areas of research. I was trained as a classical geneticist, a molecular biologist. From cancer models to studying exotic diseases in plants, I have developed toolkits for almost any genetic science… I want to always be learning and growing my curiosity.”
Wimberly stated that if we do not use scientific advances to improve the social conditions in society, “you can have all the knowledge in the world but it won’t truly help those who would benefit most from it.”
Wimberly wishes to thank his PI, Keith Choe, for challenging and supporting him as the best PhD advocate he could ask for. He also wishes to thank his wife, a physician and faculty member within UF Health, for encouraging him to go to UF in the first place and being there for him throughout their academic journeys.
“I love science so much…The worst place to be is when you feel like you know everything. You should always be learning!” ∎