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.