- Research Program Mentor
PhD candidate at University of California San Francisco (UCSF)
Transporters, Gene Regulation, Metabolism, Autism, Epilepsy, Zebrafish as a model organism, Genetics, Precision Medicine, Functional Genomics, CRISPR as gene therapy, Pharmaceutical Sciences
BioMajority of my training at UCSF revolves around studying solute carrier transporters (SLC) and their role in metabolism. Transporters are important for regulating and maintaining proper levels of nutrients and solutes in the body, as well as drug targets. My current research involves investigating a GABA transporter in the brain (GAT-1) and how single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) disrupt proper function of this transporter, preventing GABA from being transported at a normal rate in neurons. The consequences of these mutations in GAT-1 contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders, in particular Autism and epilepsy. In this project, I think of how biology is being disrupted at the molecular and cellular level and how we can fix or alleviate this disruption to revert to a wild type phenotype. Outside of lab, I attend hip hop dance classes (now on zoom or YouTube at home) and have been dancing since 6 years old. I love taking a ride to the coast and seeing the sunsets on a nice day. I also have a huge collection of plants that is part of my routine now, which I am very proud of. I have always loved mentoring students and especially giving back to marginalized students like myself. I believe the only way to move forward with the future is properly mentoring and nurturing the next generation of geniuses to be their most authentic self, while doing what they love. I always encourage a laidback environment with lots of trust and communication (and no judgement) so the best work can be put forward.
Functional Genomics of Transporters
Transporters are the gatekeepers of cells, ensuring only the appropriate solutes can get into and out of particular cell types. We have over 380 unique SLC transporter sequences found in our genome, which are divided into about 48 unique subfamilies, serving unique functions. When mutations arise in any of these transporters, the consequences could be quite severe, ranging from Alzheimer's to Diabetes. In this project, your task is to research one particular transporter in one of these subfamilies of your interest and study what major disease arises from mutations in this protein. I will provide a list of the entire families of transporters you can choose from. Doing some literature research is recommended before picking a transporter. Once you are comfortable with the transporter you chose, you will then be able to use several databases and browsers to look at real data on this transporter (if available), including gene expression of the transporter in cells and tissues (Human Protein Atlas, GTEx Portal), clinical variants with phenotype (ClinVar), population specific variants (1000 Genomes, Geography of Genetic Variants) and GWAS servers for mutations (Metabolomic GWAS server). This project can be used to investigate the disease in question and what can be done to correct the function of the transporter as a means of therapy.
Zebrafish as a model organism
Zebrafish have several advantages as a model organism for diseases and biological processes. In this project, you will familiarize yourself with this model organism and investigate how labs use these little guys to study a wide range of biological mechanisms. You will get to choose a disease or process of interest and write a review on what you discover. You can investigate the strengths and caveats of using this model organism for said disease/process and ultimately inform yourself on the techniques labs use with zebrafish to answer important questions in biology.