This month marks my 2-year anniversary of serving as Student Ambassador for the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) and I am just as excited and grateful now as I was around 100 weeks ago! Speaking of which, to celebrate, I’m going retro – taking you all the way back to 2019 to share my very first Bri*fing from the Bench – exactly as it was, including the graphics… I’ve come a long way on many fronts! And then at the end I’ll give a brief update and a link to a video I made with the IUBMB about our work together. So step into your time machine and let’s go retro!

Hi! I’m super excited to announce that I’ve been chosen to be the first Student Ambassador for @theIUBMB (International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology). As the name implies, it’s an international organization that brings together biochemists and biochemical societies from around the world (currently 79 member countries) including the @ASBMB (American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) here in the U.S. As Student Ambassador, I’m going to help them engage with the next generation of biochemists – which I’m sure means some of you!

They’ve asked me to introduce myself and I really don’t like talking about myself, which is one of the main reasons I love my “bumbling biochemist” alter ego – speaking of which, what’s the deal with that? I do a lot of my #scicomm while portraying an (often bumbling but always curious) “science superhero” – backwards lab coat cape and all. This, in addition to rhyming, alliteration, strange analogies and more, is how I approach my mission of helping make biochemistry fun and accessible to everyone.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have opportunities for a great education – I received a B.S. in Biology from St. Mary’s College of California and am currently working towards a Ph.D. at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s WSBS graduate school program, studying biochemistry and structural biology in the laboratory of Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor. I know that many people aren’t so fortunate, but that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate the amazing, exciting, wonders of life at the biomolecular level.

Technically we all “think in (or at least through) molecules” but I’ve been studying them so long I actually think “in terms of” molecules. For instance, instead of seeing a glass of water, I “see” individual water molecules whizzing around, bouncing into one another. And if I add salt, I imagine that salt breaking up into its component sodium and chloride parts and the water molecules competing for them. 

I take that whole “look inside yourself” ethos very seriously – and to very very small scale, studying how molecules like proteins (a type of molecular “worker”) and nucleic acids (DNA & RNA) (which have instructions for making & controlling workers) interact to make us us and keep us going no matter what obstacles we face. 

As a full-time graduate student, I keep very busy! In the lab I study a process called RNA interference (RNAi), which is a way in which cells limit how much of specific proteins get made by regulating how many copies of their instructions are allowed to remain in circulation at any one time.  Our cells use it all the time as part of a cellular “thermostat” for protein levels, and the system also has exciting potential to be co-opted for therapeutic use by directing it at specific problem-causing proteins. 

As Student Ambassador, I’m going to work with the IUBMB to teach you about some of the types of experiments biochemists like myself do by bringing you weekly posts about key biochemistry concepts, techniques, and more.  

I hope I can show the world that “chemical” isn’t a bad word. Chemicals are in everything and they make things things and cool things cool. “Chemicals” don’t have to be scary but sometimes the jargon scientists use, while helpful to those studying them, can alienate others and make things seem foreign – even things that we’re largely made of! (e.g. “dihydrogen monoxide” sounds a lot “scarier” than “water”). So I try to avoid jargon where possible while also introducing those jargon terms so you can recognize them if you come across them. 

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and am excited for the adventures we’ll have together! Learning should be a fun adventure and I hope you’ll join me on the journey!

So what’s changed in the two years since I met IUBMB president-elect Dr. Alexandra Newton in the hotel lobby at a conference and then later got an email from her with the offer? My philosophy and passion for making biochemistry accessible certainly hasn’t! And neither has my gratefulness for the IUBMB, which has become such an integral part of my life. Not only has it allowed me to connect with people from around the world and share the joys of biochemistry, but it has also provided priceless friendships – from the mentorship of Dr. Newton (who is seriously amazing in so many ways, including her patience as I change post ideas at the last minute!) to the “e-friends” I’ve made through my infographic-translation project (special shout-out to Nefeli Boni-Kazantzidou who’s helped me through some tough times in addition to translating multiple posts into Greek).

Speaking of that project – the IUBMB was crucial for helping me to get through the early stages without feeling incredibly useless. Instead of just watching the world seemingly catch fire around me, I was able to put my sci-comm skills to use. With the help of the IUBMB, I have been able to get my Covid-19 testing infographics translated into over 30 languages which has provided at least a sense of usefulness and purpose in these challenging times. 

My weekly IUBMB posts started off as Bri*fings from the Bench, but, thanks to Covid, turned into Bri*fings from the Bedroom, which thankfully turned back into Bri*fings from the bench. Last year at my 1 year anniversary, it was a bedroom briefing. And today it is too – but for a completely different reason – I’m writing my thesis!!!!!!!! And it’s so much easier to focus here than in a bustling lab with freezer alarms going off every few minutes. 

I want to end how I did my 1-year anniversary because it’s just as true today and every day: Even if I don’t know you, I’m thinking of you and rooting for you. 

Thank you all for following along and supporting me on my journey! And thank you IUBMB for helping me spread the love of biochemistry with the world!

Here’s that video I mentioned…

more on topics mentioned (& others) #365DaysOfScience All (with topics listed) 👉 ⠀

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