Spotlight Student: Jerrell Lovett

Dr. Terence Thomas Scholarship recipient Jerrell Lovett is 26 years young. He is a Milwaukee

native and proud alumnus of Riverside University High School and Marquette University. Between both

of his parents, he has 15 siblings. Jerrell’s father has ten other children, and his mother has five others.

He says he feels blessed to have such a large family. Most of Jerrell’s life was spent with his mom in a

house of six (at the time). His mother relied on pre-college and mentorship programs to keep Jerrell out

of the troubled neighborhood where they lived. His interest in science was fostered by the Marquette

Upward Bound Math and Science Program during his sophomore year of high school. At the time, he

had a general interest in the role that eating, and exercise habits had on physical health. He was inspired

to attend college because his family had multiple diseases ranging from autoimmune diseases to

cardiometabolic disorders. Although genetic factors play a role, he believes extrinsic factors like eating

habits, physical activity, and lifestyle choices have a greater contribution to disease. This inspired Jerrell

to study physiological science at Marquette to understand how systems work.

While at Marquette, he gained a lot of research experience surrounding muscle biology. Jerrell’s

mentor, Robert Fitts had a great interest in studying muscle cells on a cross-bridge level in various

context. In other words, he was interested in looking at the molecular level where muscle contraction

occurs. From his studies at Marquette, Jerrell earned a publication entitled “Contractility of Induced

Pluripotent Stem Cells Cardiomyocytes with an MYH6 Head Domain Variant associated with Hypoplastic

Left Heart Syndrome”. In this study they collaborated with the Medical College of Wisconsin to study

myofilament function in cardiomyocyte stem cells developed from skin cells isolated from infants with

hypoplastic left heart syndrome and the unaffected parent. The long- term goal was to understand how

MYH6 variant alters cardiac function which could lead to development of effective biological therapies.

During his final semester at Marquette, Jerrell continued with this line of inquiry and developed an

independent project that examined the cardioprotective effects of regular exercise training on heart

function using Langendroff perfusion system.

Jerrell continued to explore his interest in muscle biology when he joined Medical College of

Wisconsin’s Physiology Ph.D program. He joined the lab of Caitlin O’Meara, who has a general interest in

identifying novel mechanisms of cardiac regeneration after heart attack. Jerrell’s project aims to look at

the role of a protein called lethal giant larvae protein homologue 1 (Llgl1) in cardiac development and its

role in mediating a regenerative response after cardiac injury. These studies have clinical significance

because there is a lack of knowledge of how newly regenerated heart muscle cells or transplanted cells

reintegrate into the functional myocardium. Jerrell’s success in progressing the field’s knowledge in

heart regeneration has led him to present at multiple conferences. This past March, he was invited to

present his research and give a talk in Long Beach California. He received a distinguished abstract in

muscle biology award for my research.

After he finishes his Ph.D., he envisions being a Medical Scientist Liaison temporarily with the

long-term goal of working in Healthcare Administration. He wants to have a say on how policy is being

implemented on a larger scale, which will affect underrepresented groups. Beyond his career in Science,

he has a long-term goal to educate, inspire, and empower other black youth to discover and achieve

their purpose through a three-layered generational program. This program will consist of members from

e.g baby-boomers, his own generation, and Gen Z. The goal will be to create Black Professionals

through mentorship and representation. There will be a constant flow of knowledge throughout these

generational groups so that Black people are not starting at a disadvantage. They will have similar

resources as their counterparts when it’s time to attend post-secondary education for example.