Stephanie Poly, hailing from the great state of Massachusetts, is a Junior studying biochemistry within the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB). She has always had a love for science, particularly biology and chemistry, and originally began at Penn State as an Animal Science major. She realized that Animal Science was not the right fit for her and made the transfer to BMB, believing it would be much more challenging and competitive. She believed that competitiveness would push her more to do more in her career.
Poly works as an undergraduate researcher in the Babitzke Lab under the direction of Dr. Paul Babitzke, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Poly was most recently a participant in the Eberly College of Science Undergraduate Poster Exhibition. Her poster was entitled “CsrA-mediated Activation of ymdA Translation in Escherichia coli” and detailed her work studying CsrA, an mRNA binding protein that is a global regulator of gene expression in E. coli. CsrA is primarily known as a repressor of gene expression, however in the case of ymdA, CsrA has been found to activate the gene.
The intent of her research is to determine the mechanism CsrA uses to activate ymdA. This includes determining when CsrA is bound to mRNA, which binding sites CsrA is bound to, and which binding sites were the most critical. She has found that when CsrA was absent, the ribosomal binding site was sequestered in a hairpin, which prevented the ribosome from binding. By binding to two critical binding sites, CsrA is able to free the ribosomal binding site from that hairpin, allowing for translation to occur.
Although she is not 100% certain which career path she will find herself pursuing in the years to come she is certain that it will be a BMB related career. For years she thought of becoming a veterinarian, but now she sees herself working for a company that designs new vaccines or researches ways to prevent dementia. Possibly a company like Aptagen, which synthetically designs antibodies. It’s still unclear as to where she will find herself 10 years from now, but she hopes it's somewhere that continues to drive her passion for science and research.
The Babitzke Lab:
The Babitzke lab uses the model bacterial species Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis to investigate fundamental mechanisms that regulate transcription elongation and termination. They also examine a variety of systems in which RNA binding proteins and small RNAs (sRNAs) regulate transcription termination (transcription attenuation), translation initiation, and/or mRNA stability. Their studies utilize genetic, molecular, biochemical, and genome-wide approaches to understand how proteins and metabolites control gene expression on a global scale.