What sparked your interest in science?
I first got interested in research science when a professor from a nearby university visited our high school to donate some old lab equipment. He explained what his lab worked on, and very suddenly my concept of science shifted from known (and to-be-memorized) answers to really puzzling but solvable questions. When he offered a few of us the chance to work in his lab that summer, I got hooked.
What attracted you to UC Berkeley?
The process of getting a Ph.D. can certainly be tough at times, but Berkeley students seemed to be having a lot of fun while they did it. The tight-knit sense of community, the supportiveness between classmates, and the degree of collaboration between labs at Berkeley piqued my interest, and they have all greatly enriched my training. And I can say that first impressions held up: I've had a lot of fun here as well.
What are you currently working on in the lab?
I'm studying a family of cytosolic innate immune receptors called inflammasomes that initiate immune responses against bacterial pathogens. Specifically, I'm trying to uncover the biochemical underpinnings of how these receptors sense their specific bacterial ligands, and how binding these ligands allows assembly of a signaling complex.
Describe your ultimate dream/goal for your future.
I would love to be able to incorporate the challenge and intellectual creativity of cutting-edge research with the joy of sharing hard-earned knowledge in a teaching setting. Both of these aspects of academic life have been skills I've worked to develop at Berkeley, and I find them equally rewarding.
When I'm not in the lab, I can be found...
Backpacking in the Sierras, making costumes for the myriad costumed events in the Bay Area, attending Burning Man, or reading a good science fiction book in the park.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice during your first year in graduate school, what would you say?
Don't show up late when the Radiation Safety guy is giving a presentation.