I attended Penn State for my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. While working on my undergraduate degree I worked for Dr. Yanming Wang on epigenetic influences of cancer. I continued my education by joining the BMMB Ph.D program at Penn State, where currently I work with Dr. Scott Selleck.
I am researching neurodegenerative diseases and the possible protective effect created by the inhibition of proteins that modify cell-surface proteins.
My research revolves around the molecule Heparan Sulfate (HS). This is a majority disaccharide chain modified by sulfate groups. HS is added constitutively to a variety of cell-surface and cell-secreted proteins. When the structure of HS is perturbed through the inhibition of the proteins that construct it, there is an increase in autophagy. Autophagy is the main mechanism by which cells degrade old and misfolded proteins and damaged organelles.
Neurodegenerative Diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) appear to be caused by malfunctioning mitochondria and/or misfolded protein aggregation. This makes autophagy an attractive mechanism by which to mediate their effects. Previous work done in the lab has demonstrated rescue of PD-model Drosophila melanogaster in HS-constituent mutants. My current work involves characterizing the effect of HS-constituent mutations in ALS-model D. melanogaster as well as studying the effect of HS-constituent mutations on autophagy and membrane trafficking in human cells.