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Robert L

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at Princeton University

Expertise

Molecular Biology, Immunology, Virology, Biochemistry, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID19), Ebola viruses,Protein Structure Prediction, Using art to explain scientific principles, The science of food (e.g. fermentation, food preservation, chemical reactions)

Bio

I'm a first-generation college student from Gilbert, Arizona, who is a lifetime student turned mentor. After high school, I found that I didn't have much direction, so I began taking classes at my local community college to keep myself busy and learn fun new things when I wasn't at work. It was there that I took everything from piano to fencing, and from comparative religions to creative writing. I was very fortunate in the mentors I found at this stage of my education, without whom I would never be where I am today. From there I transferred to Columbia University to finish my undergraduate degree, where I joined a research lab that studies the neural circuits of the emotion anticipation. After graduation I switched to translational research, and was a laboratory technician for two years at Columbia University Medical Center studying the genetic underpinnings of an auto-immune kidney disorder known as IgA nephropathy. Having fell in love with scientific research, I matriculated to a Ph.D program at Princeton University where I studied how hepatitis viruses evade our immune systems, and developed novel tools to research SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID19). While at Princeton, I also could be found developing programming at the Princeton University Art Museum, conducting adult science outreach in my community, or mentoring new graduate students in our department. I received my Ph.D. in August, 2022. I currently work at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in the Infectious Diseases department, putting my hard earned skills to use developing novel therapeutics to dangerous human pathogens. Currently when I'm not in lab, you can typically find me repurposing old furniture, making hot sauce, fermenting vegetables (I make a mean garlic dill pickle and persimmon vinegar from scratch), or spending quality time with my cats. Mentorship is very important to me, as I cherish the opportunity to provide the same advice and opportunities to others that helped me get to where I am today.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Lessons from the past: repurposing old tools for researching SARS-CoV-2

A very large barrier to understanding how viruses complete their replication cycles is lacking in the tools needed to study them. While virologists and molecular biologists have been developing tools for well-characterized pathogens for years, new viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 continue to emerge and pose enormous threats to our health and well being. This project would aim to educate a student on how to read and process primary scientific literature, with the goal of identifying tried-and-true methods and tools that have been used to understand other viruses, and propose methods for them to be repurposed to study this novel, pandemic causing virus. The end product would be the generation of detailed protocols for the creation of these tools to assist in the research of this deadly pathogen.

Intersections of Science and Art: Curatorial Story Telling

Science and art are inextricable from one another; colors behave the laws of physics, conservators are modern day alchemists practicing chemistry to preserve masterpieces, and our personal response to art is governed by the sensory systems that we use to interact with the world. This project would allow the student to develop a story to be told through a unique scientific lens. The student will use this lens to juxtapose, compare, contrast, and critically analyze a set of works of art. The student will then curate an online exhibit and learn the planning and execution process inside and out: conducting research on the chosen pieces, writing object labels, participating in critical analysis, and dictating how the public interacts with the exhibit at large are all aspects that will be explored in-depth.

Teaching experience

I taught pet training classes for nine years wherein I instructed pet parents on how to teach their animals correct behaviors. I was a guest lecturer for University Science Studies at Columbia University for two semesters, and I've also been a teaching assistant for several classes and seminars at Princeton University, where I've taught large lectures, small seminars, and hands-on lab sections. During my community outreach, I also lead informative seminars to aimed at ending food insecurity, give informational and historical tours for the Department of Molecular Biology and the Princeton University Art Museum at Princeton University.

Credentials

Work experience

Columbia University Medical Center (2014 - 2016)
Laboratory Technician II
Columbia University in the City of New York (2012 - 2014)
Research Assistant
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (2022 - Current)
Senior Scientist

Education

Columbia University
BA Bachelor of Arts (2014)
Neuroscience and Behavior / Premedical Sciences
Princeton University
MA Master of Arts (2018)
Molecular Biology
Princeton University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy (2022)
Molecular Biology / Virology

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