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Keeping Memories Alive

Maurice Turner. Photo credit Phil Channing.
Maurice Turner. Photo credit Phil Channing.

Maurice Turner

Major: Biochemistry 

Minor: Neuroscience

Activities: Chapter President, Jack and Jill of America, San Diego; President, Kudos Youth Group; San Diego Links Achiever; President, Pathways2College; National Honor Society; Class Salutatorian

Donned in a lab coat, nitrile gloves and safety goggles, Maurice Turner stands at a fume hood that vacuums air from around his face, limiting his exposure to noxious vapors.

Inside a laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute, the intern adds chemically constructed sugars to amino acid sequences and watches the solution turn a deep red. He wants to determine whether the additional sugar will affect instability and misfolding in the proteins. Misfolded proteins in the brain are believed the primary cause of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s and cystic fibrosis.

Maurice hopes to discover a way to prevent these deadly diseases. The quest is personal. His Aunt Laura died from Alzheimer’s.

“It was really hard when she stopped recognizing us,” Maurice says. “Seeing that deterioration made me passionate about finding a cure.”

He remembers his Aunt Laura’s peach cobbler and bigger-than-life personality; her booming laugh and glasses that to his young eyes seemed to cover her entire face. He smiles recalling her getting down on the floor to play with him and his older brothers. His aunt had no children, so Maurice, Marcus and Matthew became her surrogate sons.

Maurice thought of his aunt when he applied to the Kelly Laboratory. Selected from more than 200 applicants, Maurice was among 25 interns at Scripps in San Diego. He was the only one chosen to work at the Kelly lab, which focuses on protein folding and how it affects the brain.

After his internship in 2009, Maurice was invited to return for the summer of 2010. The research he conducted under the guidance of postdoctoral researchers was included in a paper, now being considered for publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

He selected USC College after listening to William McClure, professor of biological sciences, speak to prospective USC Trustee and Presidential Scholars (he became a Trustee Scholar), and learning about the USC Memory and Aging Center.

“I can’t wait to continue researching in a USC lab,” Maurice says. “I’d love to work with Dr. McClure and the memory and aging center.”


Read more articles from USC College Magazine's Fall 2010/Winter 2011 issue