UMF Gave LeClair the Write Stuff for Rice
After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology at UMF, Renee LeClair earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
No longer a Mainer in exile, the Winslow native now has a post-doctoral research fellowship at Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough, where her focus is collagen triple helix repeat containing 1, a protein that appears in higher concentrations after vascular injuries in the body. In large amounts the protein is able to reduce fibrotic lesions that form on injured vessels, causing them to become brittle and fail. Boosting the protein could help a patient recovering from angioplasty keep aortic vessels supple and strong.
“Ultimately, if you could create a small molecule that would mimic the effect of the protein in an oral drug and introduce that drug at the time of a surgical procedure, then you could address a slate of problems involving fibrosis,” LeClair said. “Arthritis, kidney disease and liver disease -- anything involving fibrosis could be treated.”
Recently, LeClair has collaborated on studies showing a reduction in vessel blockage when the protein’s presence is artificially increased. This work was published in Circulation Research, an American Heart Association research journal, and has been accepted for publication by Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, another research journal.
LeClair said an appreciation for the amount and quality of writing required of her at UMF was realized only later at Rice, a school she chose based on its rigor, relatively small size (1,200 graduate students), plentiful rotations at nearby Texas Medical Center and offer of full funding.
When Rice professors began to hold up LeClair’s lab reports as instructional models for other students, LeClair said she knew the high standards at UMF had served her well.
“My peers [at Rice] struggled with the amount of writing professors demanded because their undergraduate exams were pure memorization. Their schools were so big that’s all their professors asked of them,” she said. “We wrote so much at UMF because the natural science program has a small professor-to-student ratio, and our professors could demand that of us. My peers had multiple-choice take-home exams in college. There was no flim-flam at UMF. I didn’t realize what a great education I was getting there.”