Women In Science

Visitor of the Week: Bevin English

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Meet Bevin English of the University of California, Davis. The postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Renée Tsolis’ lab is at CSHL for her first meeting: Microbial Pathogenesis & Host Response. Here is what she has to say of her first experience:

So far, this meeting is going more or less as I expected, which is great because I had pretty high expectations. I’ve been able to really get to know scientists in my field and hear about their latest results in a really beautiful setting.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
Generally speaking, my research interest is host-pathogen interactions, with a particular focus on intracellular pathogens. Right now I’m investigating how different types of host cells respond to infection with Brucella abortus.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I became interested in intracellular pathogens specifically during graduate school, when I studied Histoplasma capsulatum under Dr. Anita Sil at UCSF. That was when I started to really appreciate the intricate interplay between the pathogen, which has evolved various strategies to manipulate the biology of the host cell in order to survive inside of it, and the host, which then has to evolve strategies to counteract the pathogen.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I’ve always been interested in science, even as a kid, and I became fascinated by infectious diseases in particular when I was in middle school. I had my first research experience as an undergraduate with Dr. Karen Hales at Davidson College, and after that first experience as an independent investigator--designing, executing, and interpreting my own experiments--I was hooked.

Was there something specific about the Microbial Pathogenesis & Host Response Meeting that drew you to attend?
There was a flyer advertising the meeting outside my lab, and when I saw the list of presenters, I was immediately impressed by the caliber. I chatted with my PI and colleagues who had attended the meeting in the past, and they had nothing but good things to say about it, so I decided to attend.

What is your key takeaway from the Meeting?
There are two sides to every story in host-pathogen interactions, and a lot of people, myself included, tend to stay in their comfort zone. But I’ve talked to a lot of people who emphasized that it’s important to go where the science takes you, and there are always people with more expertise who are willing to help you out.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the meeting to your work?
My research project has shifted to immunometabolism, which I don’t have much experience in. Fortuitously, the second talk of this meeting was focused on metabolic reprogramming during infection and showed that a metabolite produced by the host affected bacterial pathogenesis by acting as a signal rather than a nutrient. It’s changing how I think about my results.

If someone curious in attending this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would definitely tell them to attend. In addition to fascinating presentations on various aspects of pathogenesis from a wide range of microbes, there are ample opportunities to interact with high quality scientists at all stages of their careers, allowing you to get input on both your science and your career development.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I have really enjoyed catching up with friends.

Thank you to Bevin 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.

Visitor of the Week: Emily Biernat

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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.

Visitor of the Week: Ying Zhang

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Meet Ying Zhang of the Walter and Elizabeth Hall Institute of Medical Research (Australia). The Chinese national and postdoctoral fellow is a member of Guillaume Lessene’s lab in ACRF Chemical Biology Division. Ying is with us for our meeting on Cell Death as a poster presenter.  

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My present research is mainly focus on cell death signaling pathways, particularly, the regulation of necroptosis signaling. We primarily use live cell imaging techniques to characterize necroptosis-related biological processes.

How did you know you wanted to make this the focus of your research?
During my PhD, I was studying the mechanism of how bacterial pathogens manipulate host immune responses during infection, such as the inhibition of cell death signaling and/or inflammation signaling. From that study, I noticed how closely cell death is related with numerous diseases. Cell death signaling is incredibly complicated, and there are still many gaps in this field that remain elusive, especially the regulation of cell death during or after disease development.

How did your scientific journey begin?
During my bachelor in food science and engineering, I took a few biology courses, such as microbiology and biochemistry, and became strongly interested in them. Consequently, I started my journey in science by doing my master’s and PhD in medical biology. Scientific research work is creative and challenging. The longer I stayed in science, the more I am fascinated by it.

Was there something specific about the Cell Death meeting that drew you to attend?
CSHL conferences have a very good reputation and a lot of researchers who have been here highly recommended it for me. It is a good opportunity to meet other people in the cell death field and get to know their work. It is also a perfect platform where I can get feedback for my study.

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
From this meeting, I learned a lot not only in my area but many others. A number of the speakers gave brilliant overviews of their topics which expanded my understanding about the research happening in cell death.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the meeting to your work?
I learned that besides experimental work, the regulation of signaling pathways can also be studied by constructing models via computational analysis. It could be very useful to apply this in my study.

If someone curious in attending this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I’ll definitely recommend this meeting to people who are doing cell death research. This is a conference that covers a good variety of different research topics.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
CSHL is a very nice place to stay. Besides the conference, there are other activities we can do like go to the gym or swim. The staff here are friendly, professional and helpful.

Thank you to Ying 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.

Visitor of the Week: Camille Trinidad

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Meet Camille Trinidad of the University of Kansas Medical Center. A member of Dr. Andrew K. Godwin’s lab, the fourth-year PhD student is currently with us training at the Proteomics course. This is Camille’s first course at CSHL and the Filipina is interested in eventually adding the Programming for Biology course to her CSHL course repertoire.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I study the role of extracellular vesicles in ovarian cancer development and metastasis. Part of my work also involves looking for potential biomarkers in extracellular vesicles for the early detection of ovarian cancer, which is a significant unmet clinical need in this area.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I have always been interested in immunology, specifically in cancer immunotherapy. I initially wanted to work on CAR-T cells but due to unforeseen events I had to move to a different area. I do appreciate working on the early detection of ovarian cancer, since treatment has been shown to be more effective if this disease is detected earlier.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I am from the Philippines, and was initially interested in science because of my teachers back in grade school and high school. In college, I really enjoyed the experience of working in a translational lab, in spite of all the difficulties one can imagine, conducting science in a resource-limited environment. I think that having a string of good mentors and labmates was a big factor in my decision to pursue science. 

Was there something specific about the CSHL Proteomics course that drew you to apply?
Mass spectrometry has recently become a very attractive and interesting method for profiling the vesicles that I study. This course covers both the theoretical and practical aspects of MS really well, so it was an easy decision to apply.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
The course has been amazingly helpful for both experimental design and working with the current algorithms for proper and rigorous data analysis/interpretation. By taking this course, I can definitely better set up experiments for our lab’s current and future projects.

What are your takeaways from the course?

  1. Experimental design is crucial.

  2. There are many ways to interpret the humongous data sets we generate, but we must be very careful in analyzing the results and be transparent with how we arrive at any conclusions.

 If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I highly recommend taking this course if you want to delve into proteomics work, since this covers everything; it is really intense. The best part is that the instructors are all very approachable and knowledgeable. We run several programs that are instrumental in both data acquisition and analysis. Also, the instructors are very accommodating when you have several questions about your own projects

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
CSHL is absolutely beautiful. With tons of space right next to the water, I really enjoy walking around and fishing.

Camille received financial support from Regeneron to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Camille, thank you to Regeneron for supporting and enabling our young scientists to participate in training courses where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Alison 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.

Visitor of the Week: Mary Jo Talley

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Meet Mary Jo Talley of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and University of Cincinnati. Mary Jo is a fourth-year graduate student in Ron Waclaw’s lab and a part of the 2019 Chromatin, Epigenetics and Gene Expression course cohort.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in understanding how stem cells determine which adult cell they should mature into. I study different kinds of brain cells to learn the mechanisms of stem cell differentiation.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I majored in Neuroscience during my undergraduate career and found developmental biology to be fascinating. For my PhD, I wanted to combine my interests in developmental biology and neurobiology, so I joined a lab were I could study both.

How did your scientific journey begin?
When I was in middle school, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She started medication for Alzheimer’s, but the medication made her symptoms worse. The doctors realized that she actually had a different form of dementia. It was at this time that I realized so little is known about a lot of neurological diseases. I wanted to get into science to better understand these diseases, how to better diagnose these diseases, and to develop better therapies.

Was there something specific about the Chromatin, Epigenetics & Gene Expression course that drew you to apply?
I was excited to come to this course to learn how to perform techniques such as ChIP-seq and CRISPR that could help me study differential regulation of genes, as well as how to analyze the data from these kinds of experiments.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
All the techniques taught in this course are techniques not currently used in my lab. By introducing these new techniques to our ongoing projects, we will be better able to study the genetic controls of cell fate decisions in the brain.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
This course has done a lot to improve my confidence as a scientist. This course has fostered a very supportive environment, where I was able to ask many questions and try so many new techniques.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Courses at CSHL are an excellent way to learn new techniques, interact with other scientists interested in similar topics as yourself, and network with some of the top scientists in the field.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
CSHL has a beautiful campus that all the students stay on together. We’ve become very good friends and have had a lot of fun – including a dance party one night in the lab!

Mary Jo received financial support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Mary Jo, thank you to NCI for supporting and enabling our young scientists to participate in training courses where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

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