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Teaching Is In This Scientist's Genes


This fall, I begin my fourth year as a doctoral student in biophysics at Brandeis University. My research, studying the dynamics of chromosomes found in yeast cells, draws both from my fascination with biology and my love of math. Chromosomes are made up of proteins and genetic material, DNA. They can be thought of as long spaghetti strands that have been stuffed into a small enclosure, the cell nucleus. While we do have information about the structure and chemistry of chromosomes, little is known about their movement in the nucleus, which we imagine to be not unlike spaghetti in a pot of boiling water.

This is where my research enters the picture. In order to visualize chromosomes, we bind light emitting proteins to specific locations along the chromosome. When I take pictures of the cell using a fluorescence microscope, the bright spots I see indicate the position of that location of the chromosome. By combining data from the images with mathematical models, we are beginning to develop a picture of how chromosomes are organized within the nucleus of living cells. My studies will help us understand the physical processes that underlie the repair of broken chromosomes, which are essential to protecting cells from becoming cancerous.