McNair scholar represents TAMUK with research

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A passion for helping others is what drives one Texas A&M University - Kingsville student to expand his knowledge through research.

Gabriel Platas, an animal science major from Premont, has been recognized for his research on wound healing with TAMUK professor Dr. Michelle Garcia, Professor of Reproductive Physiology and Molecular Biology.

Platas won best oral presentation in the Cell Biology category for undergraduate juniors at the 2020 annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, a national event and one of the largest professional conferences for underrepresented students.

This research was also presented during Texas Undergraduate Research Day in March 2021 where Platas represented TAMUK. The event showcased the experiences of undergraduate students engaged in research for Texas legislators and the public through high-quality poster presentation. THe program highlights how research conducted by undergraduate students positively impacts Texas with the theme: Transforming Texas Through Undergraduate Research.

Platas' research "Leptin Influences Vascular Endothelial Cell Elongation and Subsequent Tube Elongation in Adipose Tissue" focuses on the cellular mechanisms regulating vascular growth. Garcia said the long term goal of the research is to find ways to facilitate wound healing.

Platas plans to become a mixed practice veterinarian with a board certification in emergency and critical care. He describes his research collaboration with Garcia as being in "the right place at the right time."

"Since the specialty I am pursuing is in trauma, I knew that Dr. Garcia's research aligned almost perfectly with my academic interests. The project mainly consisted of creating blood vessels and analyzing the progressive rate, starting from a cell and ending with mature vessels, to understand how wound healing works at a cellular level," he said.

Platas said he wants to become a veterinarian because it allows him to interact with both animals and humans alike.

"When I was younger, my intention was to join the medical field, but I didn't know whether it would be in veterinary medicine or human medicine. It wasn't until I interned at a veterinary clinic that I felt my passion align to communicating with clients and still having the challenge of identifying the problem with the patient we were looking at," he said. 

Gabriel Platas from Premont represents TAMUK with research.

At a young age, Platas watched his mother care for animals as a veterinary technician which led to his career choice.

"I saw first-hand everything she would encounter [...]. Because the clinic was a mixed-practice clinic, she had the opportunity to work on general companion animals, livestock, bison, rhinos, and even a tiger. Hearing about her experiences really solidified my decision," Platas said.

Dr. Maria Martinez, Associate Vice President for Student Access, said Platas is an outstanding, role model student.

"Gabriel's representation at the Texas Undergraduate Research Day is an excellent example of his dedication and determination," Martinez said. "I commend Gabriel and his faculty mentor Dr. Michelle Garcia for their hard work and commitment to quality research. It also serves as an example of hte many opportunities that undergraduate students have here at Texas A&M-Kingsville to conduct research and the many faculty who choose to pay it forward by training students in formal and informal ways."

Platas is set to graduate in the fall of 2021. He is a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity, Director of Staff Development for Javelina Camp, and serves as the Miss TAMUK Scholarship Pageant's Chairman of Internal Logistics.

He is also in the TAMUK McNair Scholars Program. The program, named after the late Dr. Donald E. McNair, is one of 186 McNair programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education under the TRIO grant programs. Its mission is to prepare and increase the number of juniors and seniors in the fields of math, sciences and engineering to pursue doctoral studies.

"The Dick and Mary Kleberg College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is well known for its programs here at TAMUK. Being selected to represent my research, not only for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources but also for the university, was amazing," Platas said. "To see, and now experience, an opportunity like this means that all the hours and endless nights to ensure my research was nothing short of complete was worth it. It's an opportunity I hope to see other undergraduates accomplish in their time here at Texas A&M-Kingsville."