Class of 2009
Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology
Learning new techniques and acclimating to the Bay Area….sometimes felt like a trapeze act. I love it. Every lab is tackling some fascinating problem, so there is expertise in every field and technique just down the hall….It’s a phenomenal place to be a scientist, and an equally amazing place to be a person.
I felt wobbly. Confused. Mildly terrified. What, precisely, had I signed up for?
Circus class, to be exact. I was neither the first nor the last Berkeley graduate student learning the aerial silks. Although they seem like polar opposites, circus school and graduate school do intersect. Each presents fascinating problems, you get confused deciphering each step, and eventually you figure out something exciting. I chose Berkeley MCB because it is a program driven by diverse and stimulating questions. Even better, the people here are both incredibly intelligent and remarkably human—not just walking pipettes with functioning neurons. I can play clown from time to time, but I find myself thinking about science even when hanging upside down.
My research in Andreas Martin’s lab focuses in on a single act in the circus of living systems: the mechanism of substrate processing by the 26S proteasome. The 2.5 mega-dalton protease degrades a multitude of substrates and is essential for eukaryotic cell survival. In order for substrates to be degraded, the proteasome must bind targets via a post-translationally added polyubiquitin signal, unfold them, remove the polyubiquitin, and translocate the substrate into its proteolytic core. I work to dissect this complex choreography and determine how each processing step may vary given different substrate characteristics. This question becomes extremely important when one considers how ordered protein degradation regulates crucial processes like the cell cycle, and how misregulation leads to diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s. As a research question, it has everything: all the biochemical mechanism and kinetics a girl could want, and paramount physiological implications. Stuff worth thinking about at all hours, and the potential to make significant contributions in my field. Not a bad act, hmm?
I come from a small-ish town in eastern Washington State and got my Bachelor’s at Arizona State University. Prior to Berkeley I primarily did bioanalytical chemistry in the lab, but my research at Berkeley introduced me to biochemistry. Learning new techniques and acclimating to the Bay Area (where five kinds of kale, a dozen yoga studios, and a state-of-the-art x-ray source are 5 minutes away, but you have to drive 20 to find an Olive Garden) sometimes felt like a trapeze act. I love it. Every lab is tackling some fascinating problem, so there is expertise in every field and technique just down the hall. I can climb circus silks during incubations, or learn Argentine tango after experiments. It’s a phenomenal place to be a scientist, and an equally amazing place to be a person.
Undergraduate University: Arizona State University
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