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Roseanne D

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)


The role of protein misfolding in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, relationship between structure and function of proteins, how protein mutations lead to disease development


Hello! I am a proud “Boricua” from San Sebastian, Puerto Rico. I graduated from University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla with a Major in Biology. During college, I conducted research in my institution as a Puerto Rico-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation fellow and had the opportunity to join the summer internship Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. When I took a biochemistry course in college, I was fascinated with understanding of how life works at the molecular level, the chemical interactions that make life possible, and the fact that all living beings share the same composition: carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, and, my personal favorite, proteins. My motto is “Proteins have no life, but they make life possible.” After college, I was accepted to the NIH-Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program at University of Georgia, where I worked for one year. Then, I started my PhD at University of Pennsylvania where I am currently working on the biochemical characterization of alpha-synuclein conformational strains isolated from human postmortem brain tissue of Parkinson’s disease patients. In this journey that we call life, I appreciate and am thankful for the beautiful moments I can spend with my family and friends. Mental health is as important as physical health and our professional careers, therefore, enjoying time outside work to pursue my passions is very important to me. I consider myself very adventurous. I love dogs, traveling, road-trips, knowing new places, having new experiences, dancing, and trying different types of food (I am a foodie!). I have a great appreciation for different types of art, although my personal favorites are photography and painting. Finally, I am a great believer in social justice and in making the difference every day not only with our thoughts, but with our actions, to live in a better world where all human beings are treated with dignity and respect regardless of their sex, race, sexual orientation, and social and economic status.

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.

Investigating the role of protein mutations in disease

Proteins carry out critical functions in all living systems. From the hemoglobin that carries O2 to our body to the polymerase that replicates DNA to the telomerase that protects our genetic material. When proteins are folded accurately, they function appropriately, but as little as a single amino acid change can lead to devastating disease, affecting quality of life. The structure of proteins is directly related to its function. Therefore, when there is a mutation in its sequence, the protein might not be expressed, or the protein expressed can not perform its native function. As a result, different diseases can be developed such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, among others. How are the structure of proteins related to their functions? How mutations lead to the development of devastating diseases? What are the therapeutics available for these kinds of diseases? In this project, you will answer these questions through readings of primary literature, reviews and exploring the Protein Data Bank, resulting in a final product that can take the form of a review article or podcast.

Understanding the role of protein misfolding in neurodegeneration

Have you ever wondered how neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are developed in elder people? One of the main causes is the misfolding of certain proteins. These form aggregates that accumulates into the intracellular or extracellular environment, promoting toxicity that leads to cell death. In this project, we will explore how these proteins change their native conformation and form the aggregates, what are the effects at the molecular level and how is this process related to the clinical manifestations of the patients. In addition, you can review the literature to search for treatments available so you can propose novel therapeutics for a specific disease. The project can result in a research article or podcast.

Languages I know

Spanish, native

Teaching experience

As an Honor Studies Program student in college, I was a member of the Social Action Committee #PrettyIncredible: “Inspiring girls to change the world through STEM." We visited the Borinquen Bilingual School on Tuesdays and Thursdays to show presentations, games, demonstrations and experiments related with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to a group of 9-11 years old girls. We as volunteers of this committee had the purpose to become an inspiration to the girls, motivate them to achieve their goals and demonstrate them that they can change the inequality that exists in the STEM careers dominated by men.


Work experience

Baylor College of Medicine (2017 - 2017)
Summer intern
University of Georgia (2018 - 2019)
Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) student


Universidad de Puerto Rico, Aguadilla
BS Bachelor of Science (2018)
Biomedical Sciences
University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

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