Student Profiles - Recently Graduated

Carolyn FisherCarolyn Fisher
Nicholson Lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2009)
Graduate May 2016

From:Rochester, New York
Undergraduate: St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY; BS Biology & BS Chemistry, with a concentration in Biochemistry

Statement

With a background in a small liberal arts college education, I wanted to pursue research in a larger university for graduate school. Cornell's prestigious reputation and diverse interdisciplinary programs helped motivate me to apply to graduate school here. After the immediate culture-shock from touring Cornell's immense and beautiful campus during interview weekend, I quickly discovered that although the university is large, the field of BMCB feels small because everyone was so friendly and welcoming. The professors and faculty were really nice, easy to talk to, and extremely helpful. The fellow students were friendly and, although we were all applying for the same program, we all had different interests, experiences, and backgrounds. Besides Cornell, the entire Ithaca area was beautiful and full of college life; I felt like I could really see myself living here. After interview weekend, Cornell quickly became my first choice for graduate school and I was thrilled when I learned I had been accepted. Now, after being a part of the Cornell community for a little over a year, I feel more of a connection to this university than ever before.

Research

I am in my second year of graduate study and my research focus is the molecular signaling in the proteolytic processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its implications for Alzheimer's Disease. Currently, my project is in collaboration with Frank Schroeder's Lab (Graduate Field of Chemistry & Chemical Biology), where I am synthesizing a diketopiperazine organic molecule to hopefully mimic the cis-isomer of the phospho-Thr668-Pro669 motif in the APP cytoplasmic tail. I will then determine its molecular effects on the protein Pin1--a prolyl isomerase that promotes the cis/trans isomerization of a phosphorylated Thr-Pro motif within target proteins. This past April, I was awarded the 2010 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for a proposal that I wrote and submitted for this project. I really enjoy my research project because it integrates my passion for biology and chemistry, and I am excited to be a part of the supportive and friendly Cornell community while I complete my doctorate.

more


FoSheng Hsu
Fosheng HsuMao Lab
BMCB (entered program fall 2009)
Graduated May 2015

From: Seattle, WA
Undergraduate: University of Washington

Statement

I joined this program for its interdisciplinary focus and wide range of research opportunities. As a second year graduate student, I have already learned so much about the incredible range of contemporary research that is happening through various interactions with faculties, classmates and participating in the Friday seminars. In addition to these great resources, I am also impressed with the professional working environment and congenial collaboration among faculty members across different fields.

As a result, I am highly motivated to excel and broaden my horizons at Cornell, not to mention the surrounding natural beauty puts me in the best of two worlds!

Research

I am now a member of Yuxin Mao’s laboratory.  We are interested in understanding the process of membrane trafficking in the cell, in particular, the mechanism of phosphoinositide (PI) metabolism. My project focuses on a human protein called Sac2, which is a phosphatase that contains a Sac domain required for the hydrolysis of PI(4,5)P2 and PI(3,4,5)P3. This enzyme is unique in that, unlike other Sac-domain containing proteins, it hydrolyzes the phosphate from the 5-position of the inositol ring. My goal is to obtain the first crystal structure of Sac2 complex with its cognate substrate in order to better understand its substrate specificity.

more


Jon PaczkowskiJon Paczkowski
Fromme Lab
Weill Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology
BMCB Field (Entered Fall 2008)
Graduated May 2014

From: South Kortright, NY
Undergrad: Hartwick College, (BA Biology, 2008)

Statement

As someone who came from a small, but research oriented program I was looking to expand my academic and research horizons in search of something that I could see myself realistically enjoying for many years to come. Cornell University provided me with such an opportunity due to its wide range of research areas that are promoted by very enthusiastic and helpful faculty. The collaborative nature of not only the Weill Institute, but also the entire program, has allowed me to try my hand at a number of techniques that I would not have thought to use upon joining a lab. Not only has it moved my specific project along, it has helped improve my scientific thought process and skills.

Research

Work in the Fromme lab deals with Sec7-depdent Arf1 activation as well as coat protein assembly and sorting at the trans-Golgi network. We use the Arf1-dependent, yeast specific coat complex named Exomer as a model by which to study trans-Golgi to plasma membrane transport and sorting. My project focuses on the architecture of the complex, which consists of a single core protein and four ancillary homologous proteins that act as adaptor proteins. Using X-ray crystallography and the facilities at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, we have begun to elucidate the overall architecture of this 2 MD complex.

more


Lindsey BoroughsLindsey Boroughs
Cerione Lab
BMCB Field (entered fall 2008)
GRADUATED: 2013

From: Jackson Springs, NC
Undergraduate: University of North Carolina Wilmington, BS Chemistry with  a concentration in Biochemistry

Statement

One of the most important considerations when choosing a graduate program is finding an environment where you can enjoy living and working for the next several years. After visiting Cornell, I knew that this was the right place for me. The research being performed here is cutting-edge and diverse and the interplay that exists between different laboratories and departments at Cornell fosters collaborations and drives research. Moreover, Ithaca is a great place to live, mixing the feeling of a small town with the spirit of diversity and culture.

Research

The research in the Cerione lab is focused on cellular signal transduction through small GTP-binding proteins and how de-regulation of signaling pathways contributes to cancer progression. My work is concentrated on a dual-function protein known as tissue transglutaminase (TGase-2), which couples an ability to bind and hydrolyze GTP with an enzymatic transamidation activity that allows it to generate protein cross-links. I am trying to understand how regulation of TGase-2’s cellular localization and activation contribute to oncogenic processes.

more


Laura AlbulescuLaura Oana Albulescu (Bud)
Pleiss lab
BMCB Field (entered Fall 2007)
GRADUATED: 2013

From: Bucharest, Romania
Undergrad: University of Bucharest (faculty of Biology), Bucharest (BS in Biochemistry)

Statement

As an international student I was pleased to be accepted for my graduate work at one of the top universities in the US, which offers opportunities for a large variety of research interests. Upon arrival, I was also impressed by the friendliness of the people in the program and their openness to collaborations and helping you succeed in your research, which has made it a lot easier to adapt to a new country and lifestyle. Among the highlights of the program are the laboratory rotation system, which exposed me to various labs, techniques and model systems and the yearly student seminars which are extremely helpful in training the students to communicate in a scientific context. In addition, Cornell has one of the most beautiful campuses in the US, combining diverse architecture with beautiful natural scenery (waterfalls, gorges, astonishing fall colors) and wildlife (especially squirrels). All in all, it's a great place to study and enjoy nature.


Research

My research in the Pleiss lab focuses on gaining new insights into how splicing regulation is achieved by determining the full network of cellular processes which impact splicing. By conducting a genome-wide screen to identify factors which lead to changes in splicing efficiency, I have identified candidates which specifically link splicing to chromatin remodeling, transcription and 3' end processing. I am currently interested in understanding the mechanistic basis behind the coupling of these processes.

more


Andrew ManfordAndrew Manford
Emr Lab
BMCB field (entered program fall 2007)
GRADUATED: 2013

From: Twain Harte, CA
Undergraduate: University of California Davis, BS (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) in 2006

Statement

I initially applied to the BMCB field because of the many diverse areas of research represented in the field. When I was considering graduate schools I wanted a broad program where I could explore different areas of biology and use several model organisms. The BMCB field provided both and I was able to try three different model systems during my rotations. In addition, after visiting Cornell I was amazed at the beauty of the campus and the surrounding areas. The combination of exiting research and unique natural scenery has made my choice in coming to Cornell well worth it.

Research

Phosphoinositides are the phosphorylated form phosphatidylinositol, a lipid found within all eukaryotic cell membranes. Phosphoinositides serve as essential signaling molecules in cell growth and development, cell polarity, responses to extracellular signals, and membrane trafficking pathways. My research is focused on understanding the regulation of the phosphoinositide phosphatase, Sac1. Sac1 is critical for maintaining the proper levels and distributions of the essential phosphoinositide Ptd(4)P. I am currently characterizing the structure of Sac1 and investigating factors that are required for Sac1 activity.

more


Shih Lin (Lynda) Goh
Sondermann lab and Feigenson lab (joint student)
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2006)
GRADUATED: 2013

From: Malaysia
Undergraduate: Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster PA, BS chemistry 2006

Statement

The diversity of the research offered in the Field of BMCB is one of the main reasons I chose Cornell. The field brings together faculty from various departments, such as Pharmacology, Chemistry & Chemical Biology, and Plant Sciences. Hence, students from BMCB have ample opportunities to work in multidisciplinary research, and collaborate with different research groups to answer a common scientific question. Coming from a small liberal arts college with strong foundations in the sciences, I did not want my choices to be limited in graduate school. I have also grown to enjoy living in Ithaca. It not only offers the beauty of nature with its gorges, creeks, and state parks; but also provides the charm and peace of a small town.

Research

The ability of cells to maintain and change the shapes of their membranes is vital for many cellular processes. The Sondermann lab is interested in peripheral membrane proteins containing BAR/F-BAR domains that have been identified as membrane remodelers involved in endocytosis. Using X-ray crystallography and various in vitro functional assays, we have obtained the structure of Pacsin (an F-BAR domain protein), and gained insights into its mechanism of membrane deformation.

On the other hand, changes in membrane topology also depend on mechanical properties of the membrane, which is determined by its lipid composition. Since the complexity of the plasma membrane presents a difficult system to study the behaviors of lipid mixing, the Feigenson lab utilizes synthetic lipids mixtures consisting of only a few components to systematically examine lipid phase behavior. Main techniques used in the lab include fluorescence microscopy, FRET, and X-ray diffraction.

As a joint student of both labs, I am interested in studying the interplay between the phase behavior of the plasma membrane and the membrane remodeling activity of BAR/F-BAR domain proteins using model membrane mixtures.

more


Patrice OhouoPatrice Ohouo
Smolka Lab
BMCB Field (entered program Fall 2008)
GRADUATED: 2012

From: Cote d’Ivoire
Undergraduate: SUNY at Albany, BS in 2006

Statement

I am originally from the republic of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. After my undergraduate studies at SUNY at Albany, I worked as a lab technician in a cancer research center in Albany for a few years. I always wanted to further my education and the BMCB program turned out to be the perfect fit. The diversity of the research conducted here allowed me to explore different fields. Most importantly, the BMCB program gives me access to a wide variety of cutting edge research tools. The well-structured nature of the BMCB program helped me settle in the graduate school life style rather easily. Also, the friendliness of the students and the availability of the professors create a comfortable and conducive learning atmosphere.

Research

I am a member of the Smolka Lab, which is located in the Weill Institute. Our research is focused on replication checkpoint signaling and replication fork repair. Our approach consists of proteomic studies based on mass spectrometry, which we use to investigate how replication checkpoint signaling regulates the interaction network of fork repair proteins. Recently, this method has enabled us to expand the known interaction network of Rtt107, a critical fork repair factor in budding yeast. We have also uncovered that replication checkpoint signaling regulates Rtt107’s interaction with Dpb11TOPBP1, an essential replication fork protein conserved in humans.

more


Megan Sonntag Brown
Alani Lab
BMCB Field (entered Fall of 2007)
GRADUATED: July 2012

From: Long Lake, MN
Undergrad: University of Wisconsin, Madison (BS in Math and Molecular Biology, 2007)

Statement

I chose Cornell for my graduate education mainly due to the diversity of research and the number of labs I had to choose from upon arriving. I liked the variety of research subjects and techniques used at Cornell, and that it seemed very conducive to collaborations. A number of very prestigious scientists from all over visit each year, and students always have a chance to directly interact with them, which is a great opportunity. All of the faculty are very friendly and approachable, and I know they are all trying to help me succeed. Ithaca offers many activities as well, making the whole graduate experience at Cornell very positive.

Research

My project in the Alani lab focuses on analyzing the role of chromosome motion during meiosis, using budding yeast as a model organism. It is thought that defects in chromosome motion lead to nondisjunction, which is a major cause of Down Syndrome in humans. I have looked at different alleles of Csm4, a protein important in this motion, for their impact on spore viability, meiotic delay, and homolog pairing during meiosis. I have had a chance to learn many different techniques during my work so far, including gaining a strong background in microscopy.

more


Zach Via
Fox Lab
BMCB Field (entered program in fall 2006)
GRADUATED: July 2012

From: Ester, Alaska
Undergraduate: University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH; BS (Biochemistry) 2006

Statement

When I was applying to graduate schools, I knew that Cornell was one of the top schools in the country, but it wasn’t until I visited Ithaca that I realized how much Cornell has to offer. The staff and faculty here are generous and helpful, and graduate students have the opportunity to pursue both research and teaching interests in a great atmosphere. It is easy to gather together a committee from diverse fields, and interdisciplinary work is encouraged. To top it off, Ithaca is a wonderful place to live, with lots of fun local events and outdoor activities.

Research

I’m currently in my fifth year in lab of Dr. Thomas Fox, studying the assembly of the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex, using Saccharyomyces cerevisiae as a model organism. My particular research deals with a nuclear encoded gene MSS51, which is involved in the assembly of mitochondrially-encoded COX1 into cytochrome c oxidase. MSS51 has been demonstrated to target the 5’ untranslated leader of COX1, as well as physically interact with newly synthesized Cox1 protein. Much of my work has focused on creating mss51 mutants, which are deficient in one of the two functions, with the goal of identifying residues or domains responsible for each function. Recently I had the opportunity to present my work at the Gordon Seminar for Mitochondria and Chloroplast in Lucca, Italy.

more


Amber Krauchunas
Wolfner lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2006)
GRADUATED: July 2012

From: New Jersey
Undergraduate: Mt Holyoke College, South Hadley MA, BA 2006

Statement

What drew me to Cornell and the BMCB program was the science. There were so many labs doing research that I found to be both interesting and exciting. Coming to Cornell was an easy decision because I knew I would have no difficulty finding a lab to join. I also appreciated the diversity of the labs within the department, which allowed me to explore a variety of interests during my rotations and find the lab and the project that I truly wanted to pursue. Finally, there is the friendly and collaborative nature of BMCB. It is a wonderful environment to work in, and you know that everyone wants you to succeed. After my first visit I felt I would be happy to spend my graduate career here, and today I still know that Cornell was the right choice for me.

Research

My project in the Wolfner lab is focused on the phosphorylation changes that take place during egg activation in Drosophila melanogaster. Egg activation refers to the events that occur when a mature oocyte transitions to an egg capable of supporting embryogenesis. Despite all the changes at this time of development, little to no transcription is observed. However, studies have shown that differences exist between the proteomes of mature oocytes and activated eggs. Contributing to the changes in the proteome are changes in protein phosphorylation state. We know that MAPK activity levels decrease and CamKII activity increases during egg activation, and that the protein phosphatase calcineurin is essential for activation. In addition, there are two proteins that have been shown to be dephosphorylated upon activation, both of which are needed for early embryonic development. I have been using mass spectrometry approaches to find additional proteins that undergo changes in their phosphorylation state during this oocyte to embryo transition, with the future goal of characterizing their roles in the events of egg activation.

more


Steven PeteschSteven Petesch
Lis Lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2005)
GRADUATED: April 2012

From: Seattle, Washington
Undergraduate: Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA
B.S. in Chemistry (with Distinction) 2005

Statement

Coming from a small liberal arts college that focuses on math and science I knew that I wanted to continue on in a Ph.D. program that would not only challenge me but would also develop my skills as a research scientist and a mentor to others. After visiting, I learned that Cornell would provide both a challenge and the skills that I needed but would do so in a unique way. I felt that the BMCB field offered a highly collaborative environment whose professors support the growth and success of their graduate students through continued interactions and attention in a way that reminded me of my rewarding undergraduate experience.

Research

In the Lis lab we use in vivo techniques to study the molecular mechanisms of transcription. One ubiquitous barrier that the transcriptional machinery (Pol II) must overcome to efficiently transcribe genes is imposed by nucleosomes and higher order chromatin structures. How Pol II is able to overcome this barrier has been a long standing question and is the focus of my research in the Lis lab. To try and answer this question I use high-resolution micrococcal nuclease mapping and chromatin immunoprecipitation to track the position and composition of nucleosomes in vivo. These techniques provide the high spatial and temporal resolution needed to address how nucleosomes are changing as transcription is activated. Additionally, I employ other techniques such as RNAi and chemical inhibition that allow me to interrogate how a specific factor affects chromatin structure in vivo.

more


Felipe H. Santiago-Tirado
Bretscher Lab
BMCB (entered program fall 2003)
GRADUATED: August 2011

From: Ponce, Puerto Rico
Undergraduate: University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus; BS (Industrial Biotechnology) in 2003

Statement

Why Cornell? Simply because of the environment--not only the natural setting of the Finger Lakes area, which is “gorgeous”, but the friendly nature of the departments, professors, staff, and students. Everything combines to make you wake up every day, happy to go to the lab and continue on your experiments. The Graduate School, as well as the BMCB program, really work for the students.  Everyone wants you to succeed. Also, the interdisciplinary way in which the grad programs are built not only allows you to make connections outside your field, but makes learning new things and applying them easy. After visiting for a weekend and noticing all of these things, and knowing the kind of research that is done here every day, how could I not come to Cornell?

Research

In most eukaryotes, the several regions of the cell are differentially organized, a phenomenon called polarity.  Our lab tries to understand how polarity is established, maintained and regulated.  We use two model systems to answer that question: epithelial cells and the budding yeast. My work concentrates on elucidating how the essential myosin motor in yeast, Myo2p, binds secretory vesicles and transports them into the bud.  In particular, I am looking at the role that phosphoinositides may have in this process. To tackle this problem, I apply such tools as yeast genetics, biochemistry, and microscopy.

more


Steven PeteschStephanie Yazinski
Weiss Lab
BMCB Field (entered program in fall 2005)
GRADUATED: August 2010, presently post doctoral fellow, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

From: Moosic, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate: University of Scranton, Scranton, PA; BS (Biochemistry, Biomathematics) in 2005

Statement

I chose the BMCB program because of the diversity of labs that belong to this field. The program allowed me to rotate in three very different labs working with three different organisms to find a lab that best suited my interests. The diversity also allows for several collaborations within the department. In addition, the BMCB program provides an opportunity to give scientific presentations at least once a year at the field seminar series.

Research

The Weiss Lab is interested in mechanisms of maintaining genomic stability, cellular responses to genome maintenance, and mouse models of cancer. My project involves elucidating roles for the DNA damage checkpoint protein Hus1 in cell transformation and tumor development in mice using several mouse models of cancer. In addition, I am utilizing the conditional Hus1 allele developed by our lab to examine the requirements for the DNA damage checkpoint protein Hus1 in the mouse mammary gland.

more


Changrui (Ray) LuChangrui (Ray) Lu
BMCB (entered program fall 2005)
GRADUATED: August 2010, presently post doctoral fellow, Vet Molecular Medicine, Cornell University

From: Shanghai, China
Undergraduate: Undergraduate: Colgate University '05, Hamilton NY; BA in Molecular Biology

Statement

Very few colleges around the world can offer the combination of world-class research facility, education and picturesque surroundings of gorges, waterfalls and lakes. Therefore choosing Cornell was a no-brainer, knowing that Cornell can provide excellent training, productivity, as well as a peaceful and healthy life style that are unimaginable in big cities. The graduate program includes researchers in various fields, anything from population genetics to structural biology of single molecules. The wide range of expertise and research topics creates many collaborations and interdisciplinary studies that prepare a student well for future challenges. The friendly, helpful and collaborative environment in the program makes learning and research much more efficient and enjoyable.

Research

I am interested in atomic resolution structures of various RNA and RNA binding proteins, in order to understand their biological roles and mechanisms. For example, I have recently characterized two distinct RNA riboswitch structures bound to S-adenosylmethionine, which could potentially be drug targets in many pathogens.

more


Jennifer FoxJennifer Fox
Stover Lab
BMCB Field (entered program in Fall 2004)
GRADUATED in May 2009, presently post-doctoral fellow at the NIH

From: Baltimore, MD
Undergraduate: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, BS (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) in 2004

Statement

I chose Cornell because of the interdisciplinary nature of the BMCB program.  Not only are students able to minor in another field such as chemistry, genetics, nutrition, biophysics, or microbiology, but they also have the option of joining some of the labs in these departments.  By taking advantage of these opportunities, I feel I have developed a broad knowledge base that will allow me to succeed no matter what area of research I find myself in the future.

Research

Cytoplasmic serine hydroxymethyltransferase (cSHMT) is a key regulator of folate-dependent de novo thymidylate biosynthesis.  The expression of cSHMT is controlled through an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) located in the 5’ untranslated region of the cSHMT transcript.  Mammalian IRESs are cis-acting regulatory elements that permit 5’-cap-independent translation and provide a mechanism to enhance rates of translation when cap-mediated ribosome scanning is impaired.  My research aims to elucidate the mechanism and physiological significance of the IRES-mediated translation of cSHMT in order to allow for a better understanding of the regulation of thymidylate biosynthesis, and to ultimately reveal the molecular mechanisms that underlie the pathologies and developmental anomalies associated with disruptions in folate metabolism.

more


Scott GabrielScott Gabriel
Helmann Lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2004)
GRADUATED August 2009, presently Assistant Professor at Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI

From: Williamsport, PA
Undergraduate: University of Pittsburgh B.S. in 1998. Entered BMCB in Fall 2004

Statement

When I was looking at graduate school programs, I was finishing a five year hiatus from education working as an adventure education facilitator. It was important to me that the program I chose had a broad base of training for its graduate students and supported their development as scientists.  In retrospect, I could not have chosen a better place to be. The training I have received here has been from scientists at the top of their respective fields and those same people have been incredibly kind and supportive. Outside the lab walls, I have found Ithaca a great place to live. My wife and I bought a house here and love the nature and culture that is so abundant in Ithaca. 

Research

All organisms experience and respond to stress in their environment. The Helmann lab studies stress responses in the model Gram positive organism Bacillus subtilis. My research focuses specifically on zinc limitation and how the Zinc Uptake Regulator (Zur) controls the transcriptional response to this starvation. I have worked to determine the biochemical mechanism of Zur’s sensing intracellular zinc concentration. Additionally, I am interested in elucidating the function of the unknown genes under the transcriptional control of this regulator and how they help the cell regain metal ion homeostasis.

more


Gary Isaacs
Kraus Lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2002).
GRADUATED January 2009, presently Assistant Professor at Liberty University, Lynchburg VA.

From: Delaware
Undergraduate: Liberty University, BS (Premed) in 1999

Statement

The BMCB field in the Molecular Biology and Genetics Department was the reason I chose to come to Cornell. With past experience as a high school science teacher, I knew I needed a broad foundation in biochemistry and molecular biology in order to meet the challenges of teaching science in the future. Since the program contains professors from various fields of study, I quickly found the area of research that sparked my interest the most. To this day, collaborations and interactions within the MBG Department challenge my way of thinking about science and enable me to be a better teacher in the future.

Research

My research in the Kraus Lab is directed at understanding the mechanism by which AP-1 transcription factors activate transcription. I am particularly interested in how estrogen receptors cause an activation of certain AP-1 driven genes in a ligand-dependent manner. I am attempting to determine the proteins that compose these transcription complexes and determine their role in transcriptional activation.

more


Alexandra AmaroAlexandra Amaro
Huffaker Lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2002)
GRADUATED: February 2010, presently post doctoral fellow, Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University.

From: San Diego, CA
Undergraduate: University of Notre Dame. BS (Biological Sciences) in 2002

Statement

The highly collaborative environment at Cornell was one of the main reasons I decided to join the BMCB program. Many labs work in similar areas, which allows the labs to hold joint journal clubs, discuss problems, and troubleshoot protocols. Its great to have the entire building as a resource whenever you have a question because chances are someone is willing and able to help. Everyone in the department is very supportive and friendly, which makes for a great working environment.

Research

The formation and stability of the mitotic spindle during the cell cycle is critical for proper segregation of chromosomes. The bipolar spindle is composed of microtubules and associated proteins. Using the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, I am interested in understanding the role of the essential microtubule-associated protein Stu1 in assembly and maintenance of the mitotic spindle. Stu1 is a member of a family of proteins conserved from yeast to humans that localizes to the spindle and binds microtubules. Loss of Stu1 results in a compromised collapsed spindle. I am currently investigating if Stu1 maintains spindle integrity by modulating microtubule dynamics.

more


Sara ZimmerSara Zimmer
Stern Lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2001)
GRADUATED June 2008, presently post doctoral fellow at SUNY Buffalo.

From: St. Cloud, MN
Undergraduate: Michigan Technological University; Dual BS (Biological Sciences and Chemical Engineering)

Statement

I spent several years focused on a ski racing career before returning to research full time. The faculty at Cornell seemed to welcome the diversity of my experience when I applied and interviewed, and I appreciated the fact that they were utilizing ideas and technologies from various disciplines in their own work. Furthermore, I really feel the program supports me as I strive to become a better scientist while simultaneously becoming a first-time mother.

Research

Current research indicates that regulation of gene expression goes far beyond transcriptional control, including post-transcriptional alterations of RNA. The focus in the Stern lab is chloroplast gene expression, where relative levels of mRNAs are primarily regulated at post-trancriptional steps. I have identified several genes that are likely to participate in these steps, by modifying or cleaving RNA. I am silencing them in the versatile alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, as well as overexpressing one of them and performing biochemical assays. My thesis work is centered on determining what role these proteins have in both the processing and turnover of chloroplast RNAs. I am especially interested in understanding how polyadenylation promotes degradation of mRNAs and how my candidate genes affect this step in the degradation pathway.

more


Kristin Burns
Begley Lab
BMCB Field (entered program fall 2001).
GRADUATED August 2006, presently a postdoctoral fellow at the NIH.

From: Pennsylvania
Undergraduate: Franklin and Marshall College, BA (Chemistry) in 2001

Statement

The introductory eight-week lab course is one reason why I chose the BMCB Graduate Program. The Field System brings together labs from Chemistry, Nutrition, Microbiology, etc., so it was beneficial for us to get an introduction to a variety of techniques to prepare us for our rotations and future lab work. The Graduate Program also provides students with terrific training -- student seminars, Friday seminars and progress reports are just a few examples of this training.

Research

Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (PLP, vitamin B6) is an essential cofactor in all living systems. It plays an important role in amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism and has recently been implicated in singlet oxygen resistance. The biosynthesis of PLP in Escherichia coli has been well studied. This pathway, however, is restricted to a relatively small number of bacteria. Most bacteria, archaebacteria, fungi, and plants contain the highly conserved SNZ and SNO family of genes which have been implicated in PLP biosynthesis. My project involves the identification of the substrates for the SNZ and SNO family of proteins in Bacillus subtilis, reconstituting the biosynthesis, and analyzing the reaction mechanism.

I am interested in studying Mycobacterium tuberculosis in my post-doc, with the hope of uncovering interesting biosynthetic pathways and chemistry.

more