Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Tiara Schwarze-Taufiq

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Autumn 2021

Research Project: Probing the role of tau loss-of-function in AD pathogenesis

Project Description: Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that is the most common cause of dementia. One hallmark of AD pathology is hyperphosphorylation of tau protein, which leads to loss of its normal function and promotes aggregation into neurotoxic fibrillary tangles. While tau aggregation is well-documented, the exact role of tau loss-of-function in AD pathogenesis remains uncharacterized. We generate mixed cultures of tau-depleted neurons from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and use qRT-PCR, immunocytochemistry, and ELISA to better understand the mechanism by which tau dysfunction contributes to central aspects of AD pathogenesis, such as neuroinflammation and cellular stress. We hope this research will provide insights on how exactly AD pathology arises and inform novel therapeutic targets.

What have you learned throughout your research project?

Throughout my time at the Young Lab, I have learned invaluable skills in developing a line of scientific inquiry, collaborating with other scientists, and communicating findings with the broader scientific community. Coming into the Young lab, I had practice in reading scientific papers, however I had little to no experience in planning or executing my own experiments. With the support of my mentors, I learned how to start with the literature, identify what is yet to be studied, form a hypothesis, and independently plan and execute experiments to test that hypothesis. Along the way, I have learned how to maintain a mindset of perpetual growth and curiosity even in the face of setbacks. I have learned how important and rewarding it is to constantly seek new knowledge, read more papers, and maintain that sense of awe and thirst for exploration that drew me to my research in the first place. Above all, I have learned how invigorating the research process truly is. Through attending meetings with the lab and our collaborators, writing abstracts and project proposals, and presenting my research at symposiums, I have felt incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a scientific community here at UW that is intellectually daring, passionate, and knowledgeable about the topics I’ve wanted to study my entire life.

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

Never count yourself out! Coming into my lab, I was unsure of my capabilities; I was scared to schedule meetings, share my ideas, or attend departmental seminars because I was only an undergraduate. Once I overcame that fear, I realized what an amazing growth opportunity it was and how much the UW Medicine/ISCRM research community genuinely wants to support and include trainees. Be bold and engage with your project and your mentor as much as you can, even if you don’t have all the answers, ask silly questions, or make mistakes. Apply to everything you’re interested in, go to all the fun seminars, and take intellectual risks. That is how you grow and improve, and that willingness to take intellectual risks is the foundation of research and leadership.