I still remember the excitement I had when I was accepted into UCLeads. I was in line at the UCSB arbor buying a bottle of water and a bag of dark chocolate M&Ms and I felt my phone buzz. As soon as I read my email I could not believe that I had been accepted and If I remember correctly I held up the line by rereading the email about 5 times until the cashier yelled at me. At the time the summer program had seemed far away, but now that I am fully immersed in the program it feels a research roller coaster! I am currently working in Dr. Reich’s Lab which is primarily involved in the study of DNA modifying enzyme mechanisms (how they behave on DNA) and also characterizing the ability to deliver drugs (mRNA and siRNA) to cancer cells using novel particles. I am working directly with Dr. Reich, my faculty mentor, and my undergraduate mentor, Brigitte Naughton. I am also very fortunate to have Clay Woodcock as my grad mentor who often gives me advice but I am primarily being trained by Brigitte who has been very helpful and resourceful! As of right now Brigitte, Dr. Reich, and I are working on our manuscript in anticipation of submitting it for publication! It feels great to see the fruits of hard work as Brigitte and I have spent time working on the project.
Working in the lab has been a great experience and everyone is wonderful and friendly to each other. Going into undergraduate research I had expected an office setting for the lab but it is mostly a group of friends running experiments, interacting, and doing other activities together. It is also immensely helpful that my faculty mentor, Dr. Reich, is very friendly and helpful. He has a sort of open door policy and anyone can go in to get help or talk. Even though the atmosphere is very friendly hard work is expected of us. It was a little hard for me transitioning from the summer to working full time in the lab as sometimes i might be in here for 10 hours a day. I have found that the one thing i dislike the most about research is not getting the right results! But I am sure that this is the same for everyone. In our lab we use PAGE Gels to check to see if the enzyme has worked on the DNA substrate in the way we expect it too. To use a Page Gel one has to cast the liquid solution between 2 glass plates without forming any air bubbles that may be trapped in the gel. I have found out that this is something I am absolutely terrible at. It takes me 4 tries at times to cast the gel and it is both amusing and disappointing at the same.
So I guess I should talk about my current project as it is quite exciting and nearing the end. I am focusing on an enzyme called Dam also known as DNA Adenine Methyltransferase. Essentially Dam methylates (adds a methyl group) to the N6-Adenine on DNA and can alter the expression of genes. Right now I am involved in a bioinformatics project on the E.coli Dam and the T4 Bacteriophage Dam. The bacteria E.coli uses Dam in chromosome replication, mismatch repair, and for regulating virulence genes. The T4 bacteriophage which infects E.coli has a Dam of its own for which we do not know its purpose. So my project hopes to shed some light on what this purpose could potentially be. I am using a variety of exciting computer tools to see my project to completion. I have put up a video of E.coli Dam which what I am studying and I am soon going to be transitioning towards conventional lab bench experiments and am excited to see my research go forward!