Visitor of the Week: Emily Biernat


Meet Emily Biernat of Oakland University. The first year PhD student in Dr. Chhabi Govind’s lab is on campus taking part in her inaugural CSHL meeting, Mechanisms of Eukaryotic Transcription, as one of its 350+ poster presenters. Emily’s poster, entitled “The RSC complex coordinates with histone acetyltransferases to regulate chromatin structure and transcription genome-wide in Saccharomyces cerevisiae,” was visited by so many of her fellow meeting participants that “[her] throat went hoarse from speaking too much.” Her first experience of presenting a poster at an international meeting was productive, with “a few even [offering her] new ideas and strains to add to [the] future directions with the project.” As for her thoughts on her first CSHL Meeting? Here’s what she said:

I thought it would be a bunch of scientists getting together to strictly discuss their findings, but I discovered that this meeting is so much more than that. It’s an event where people from all walks of life can come together and make new friends, and share ideas that they are wildly passionate about. I will definitely be attending future meetings.

And we look forward to welcoming Emily again in future iterations of our Mechanisms of Eukaryotic Transcription meeting. Here is the rest of our interview.

What are your research interests; and how did you decide to make this the focus of your work?
My research involves studying how the RSC complex in budding yeast remodels the nucleosomes that package DNA into chromatin using MNase ChIP-seq, and subsequently how mutations in RSC affects chromatin remodeling, interactions with other transcription factors, and transcription. I knew I wanted to get into the field of either genetics or genomics ever since high school. I was curious about RNA interactions with other factors and epigenetic changes within populations. Studying chromatin remodeling allows me to investigate certain epigenetic roles involving histone dynamics and to study the effect this has on the production of various RNAs, such as snRNA. This focus allows me to study all of my scientific interests.

How did your scientific journey begin?
My scientific journey began when I was quite young, at about six years of age. My dad was into science himself, and bought me books on astronomy. I went through those books over and over again like how a kid always runs back to the ice cream truck for more. I always did well in school, particularly in the areas of math and science, so I was always motivated to learn as much as I could in school. I initially wanted to be an astronomer, but I figured out in my high school physics class that physics and astronomy were not the right paths for me. However, around the same time, I had a biology teacher who received her Master's in genetics, and was very passionate about the subject. I quickly became infatuated with genetics myself, and the rest was history.

Was there something specific about the Mechanisms of Eukaryotic Transcription Meeting that drew you to attend?
What drew me to the meeting were the vast amount of talks on RSC, SAGA, and how those factors initiate transcription in yeast. Also, world-renowned yeast genetics researchers such as Dr. Steven Hahn were attending the meeting, and I was eager to hear them speak.

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
My key takeaway from the meeting is that the study of the mechanisms of transcription is a field more intricate than any new graduate could ever imagine before attending the meeting, and that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of smart, dedicated researchers all working to solve tiny pieces of the puzzle that is transcription.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the meeting to your work?
I have learned about several methods that I would like to employ in my work. Cut and Run is much less time-consuming, less expensive, and more sensitive than ChIP. I would like to integrate cut and run into our lab’s workflow to use as a preliminary screening for mutants with the desired chromatin remodeling defects associated with RSC that we wish to explore further before we perform ChIP.

If someone curious in attending this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would tell the person that if they have a love for transcription or translation and wish to get into the field, that this is the meeting to attend.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
When I return home, the one thing that will stick with me the most is all of the new, friendly people that I had the pleasure of meeting. I finally got to put faces to the people I have emailed to request strains and protocols, and I must have made at least a dozen new friends so far. I cannot wait to come back for the next meeting!

Thank you to Emily for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.