Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Diana Lei

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Autumn 2021

Research Project: Oligonucleotide-Directed Biotinylation: a new technology exploring mammalian architectural RNAs in-situ

Project Description: Many RNAs in our cells are being overlooked for their integral function in cellular structure organization, cell cycle regulation, DNA repair, and epigenetic processes. Dysregulation in the function of these architectural RNAs can lead to age-related neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, and viral infections such as COVID-19.This is mainly because of the hardship to identify other molecules (proteins, DNAs, RNAs) that interact with these architectural RNAs in close proximity. To address this challenge, Oligonucleotide Directed-Biotinylation (ODB) uses a technology termed proximity-biotinylation to pinpoint what the interacters are for a specific target RNA, after which the interacters can be pulled down for further analyses. Current results have shown ODB as a robust tool to probe molecular interactions made by an RNA target in situ, showing that it can be a powerful tool to aid discovery of many therapeutics that target RNA pathways specifically.

What have you learned throughout your research project?

During my experience as an undergraduate researcher, I have learned to have resilience to get back up from a failed experiment and rationalize and optimize it. I have also learned how important it is to have a support system from which we can actively seek mentorship as well as friendship. Being an undergraduate researcher helped me learn about the life in academia and prepares me for future endeavors in this field.

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions that might seem “too easy”, and take every step of the experience, be it happy or sad, stressful or successful, as an opportunity to learn about yourself and what you love.