The *NSPIRE fellowship is a competitive scholarship program for senior graduate students at Scripps Research. *NSPIRE Fellows will receive a educational allowance stipend and will have the opportunity to present a seminar at the *NSPIRE Symposium. The seminar will not only feature Fellows’ doctoral research, but also highlight their unique educational journey in a way that is compelling to a diverse audience of students, faculty, and staff from CSU San Marcos, Palomar Community College, Mira Costa Community College, and Scripps Research.
2021 *NSPIRE Fellows
I am passionate about science education and am excited for this opportunity to share what I’ve learned throughout my scientific journey. My first experiences with research were at University of California, Davis, where I undertook two very different projects. In one project, I used electron microscopy and computational biology to understand how DNA topology contributes to the maintenance of the mitochondrial DNA of a lethal parasite, T. brucei. In another project, I used molecular biology techniques and mammalian tissue culture to ask how mutations in the protein SynDIG4, important for neural synapse formation, affect protein stability. Now, as a PhD candidate at Scripps Research, I am investigating how the NRF family of transcription factors respond to cellular stress. The activity of these transcription factors and the genes they regulate are essential in defense against many diseases such as neurodegeneration. I use various chemical and cellular biology techniques, such as treating cells with small molecules and conducting genetic screens, as well as bioinformatics for studies including RNA sequencing and analysis of various cellular pathways. We have discovered specific points of communication between metabolism and antioxidant production in the cell, suggesting a fascinating connection between intricate signaling pathways that regulate our cellular health. I’ve been fortunate to learn from wonderful teachers and mentors that have helped me develop my talents and interests, and hope to use all that I’ve learned to be a helpful resource for budding scientists in our community.
The growth and health of our society depends on the discovery of new chemicals. For example, confronted with emerging and evolving diseases, the pharmaceutical industry develops new medicines. Powerful tools exist in chemical methodology to assemble molecules with high aromatic character and low fraction (F)sp3 content. However, studies of approved drugs have indicated a correlation between high Fsp3 content and clinical success. This has been suggested to be due to improved solubility and higher specificity imparted by the complex chemical architectures that sp3 hybridization offers. Complex molecules, however, are harder to make. This is where my research interests lie. In Professor Ryan Shenvi’s lab, we use Metal-hydride Hydrogen Atom Transfer (MHAT) in combination with cross-coupling to forge new carbon-carbon bonds with high Fsp3 character from olefin and organohalide precursors. The methods our group have developed enable access to complex molecules from relatively simple starting materials and exhibit excellent chemoselectivity and chemofidelity. My journey into this field started at Palomar College, where I was inspired to pursue an education in chemistry. My first research experience came a year later under the guidance of Professor Keary Engle. I am now pursuing graduate studies with Professor Shenvi, where I have been for the last three years. I am so excited to be an *NSPIRE fellow as part of my efforts to bring scientific research to younger students. I cherish these opportunities to share my research and experiences with other aspiring scientists.