Please give a brief, lay-audience accessible description of your research.
Like a city, a cell relies on a delivery system to transport organelles, proteins, mRNA, or other biomolecules to specific locations in the cell. To do this, all cells contain a network of highways and local roads that extend throughout the cell. A group of specialized proteins called kinesins can move along these “cellular roads” and pull “trailers” full of material. Over time certain kinesins have been optimized with specific motility properties (speed, travel distance, capacity to pull something heavy) to best meet their functional needs in the cell. My research focuses on understanding how small changes in the structure of a kinesin alter its capacity to transport heavy material in cells. Understanding how a given kinesin is best suited for distinct cellular roles is indispensable to advance our understanding of how the cell orchestrates fundamental cellular processes such as cell division, cell motility, intracellular trafficking, and cilia function.
What aspect of your research do you find most interesting?
What I find most exciting about research is that there are so many different, creative ways to test a scientific question. Collaborating with other scientists, learning new techniques, and talking about your science is very important. To go from an idea, testing that idea, and then compiling experimental results into a working model is such a challenging, yet rewarding process.
What about your career path is most exciting to you and why?
My mentoring and teaching experiences have not only helped me learn how to better convey science to others, but have also helped me realize what I want to achieve from my graduate school training. Ultimately I hope to teach and conduct research with students at the undergraduate level. I find it exciting to break down the complexity of science to teach students fundamental concepts and then see them tackle these concepts and apply them to scientific questions. Working and helping to guide students has been a very humbling and rewarding experience. Seeing them realize, work towards, or achieve their career goals is amazing!
What makes UM the best place for you to carry out your career goals?
As an undergraduate student, I knew that I wanted to pursue a research-focused career, but I didn’t know what type of science I wanted to do. The University of Michigan provided the flexibility for me to try out a variety of different types of research before committing to a specific lab. I am continuously surprised at how approachable and understanding the faculty and students are. The extremely supportive and collaborative environment combined with the availability of top-notch techniques provides a positive environment for students to grow, learn, and conduct science.