What do you do?
While DNA, the carrier of the genetic information of an organism, is quite well known, RNA, its relative, is less famous. RNA acts as a messenger to communicate information from DNA to make a protein, which goes on to do a job in a cell. However while about 75% of DNA is transcribed into RNA, less than 2% of these RNAs go on to become proteins. That leaves a lot of RNAs that were previously assumed to be non-functional or junk. Now we find that these noncoding RNAs can actually play important and diverse roles in the cell. I study how different types of noncoding RNAs are generated, matured, and finally even degraded in different organisms and in different diseases.
Why did you choose this field?
My high school science fair project gave me my first taste of research. I'll never forget the excitement from seeing my experiment work, the delight of the data coming together, and the rush of the presentation that I felt that sparked my love for science. That experience drove me to study biochemistry in college, but more importantly encouraged me to join a lab to pursue research even in the early years of my undergraduate experience.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Being a postdoc at University of Pennsylvania! From a young age I've always been scared to fail, but it was only through graduate school that I learned to embrace failure. In research not every experiment, technique, and idea you have will work the first time you attempt it. Oftentimes a solution to a problem requires multiple attempts with each requiring new learning and experiences. I wish my younger self would have known that sometimes it takes "failing" at something to gain the experiences required to finally succeed.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the feeling of completing an experiment- Planning, performing, and analyzing the data are all gratifying but nothing compares to seeing the fruits of your labor come together in a neat figure. It's one of the most satisfying feelings!
Best advice for next generation?
Read widely and read anything and everything that interests you. Question what you read- question the underlying assumptions and the conclusions. Curiosity and creativity often drives the most interesting science. Seek out opportunities to pursue research wherever you can- volunteer or work in a lab, apply for fellowships, attend every conference or meeting. You never know where an opportunity may take you.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research, would it?" - Albert Einstein