Today I just wanted to fill people in on what’s next for me. I don’t have a start date yet because I still need to get the paper from my grad school research out, BUT…. despite how grateful I am to my current PI (lab head) Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor, I am thrilled to officially announce that, once I finish here, I will be joining the lab of Dr. Danica Fujimori at UCSF (University of California San Francisco) for a postdoc. I’ve actually known for quite some time but I wasn’t sure whether it was okay to tell people and didn’t want to do anything wrong! But, when I asked her about telling some people in a particular instance, she said I should feel free to tell *everyone.* So I am. And I’m really excited. When I interviewed (unfortunately only via Zoom) it seemed like a too-good-to-be-true fit.
note: a “postdoc” is a postdoctoral research position. “Postdoc” is also used as a noun to refer to the people who are doing a postdoc, and, as the name implies, they’ve already earned their PhD (usually in a different lab) so they have more autonomy but also more is expected from them. Often this “more” includes mentoring students (which I LOVE!). Doing a postdoc is a great way to gain more experience and pick up new skills. This “new skills” part is part of why I’m most excited about the coming transition…⠀
In addition to everyone seeming incredibly nice, the research they do is AWESOME. They use chemical biology & biochemistry techniques to study post-translational & post-transcriptional modifications (changes that are added to proteins & RNA after they’re made). My current work has been focused on the post-translational modification called phosphorylation (addition of bulky, negatively-charged phosphorylation groups), but there are many other forms of modification including the one her lab mainly studies, methylation. Methylation may seem “boring” compared to phosphorylation since it’s charge-neutral – BUT it’s soooooo not boring! And it can have large effects, such as making bacteria resistant to antibiotics! See their article (first author grad student Kaitlyn Tsai!) for more: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.03.12.435202v2 and altering gene expression through histone modifications (making changes to the proteins DNA is wound up around). The plan’s for me to work on some cool ribosome stuff but I’m not gonna spill the beans on what exactly. more on the Fujimori Lab here: http://fujimorilab.ucsf.edu/
If you’ve been following me, you might remember that I’ve been wanting – for years – to get more into chemical biology, which is more towards the chemistry side of biochemistry as opposed to the biology side. Among other things, it often involves, for instance, a combination of chemical synthesizing or modifying of compounds to control and/or help figure out biochemical processes as they naturally occur. I’ve always loved chemistry and wish I’d taken more. And I’ve been afraid I’d missed my opportunity. Therefore, I am incredibly grateful that Dr. Fujimori is going to give me the opportunity to learn and practice chemical biology. (and in return I will hopefully be able to teach and help lab mates with the more biochemistry-y things). The skills I’ve developed over the past 5 years are definitely going to be critical and a core part of my future research (and I am incredibly grateful for all Leemor Joshua-Tor and my lab mates have taught me), but I will also be able to pick up new skills.
These skills, and opportunities to teach at local colleges, will hopefully aid me in my ultimate goal of becoming an undergraduate-focused biochemistry professor at a small undergrad-focused school, like St. Mary’s College of California (SMC) where I went and absolutely loved.
And as a bonus I will be home near my family again!!!!!!!! Going through the pandemic cross-country from loved ones has been challenging, despite how fortunate we have been to have all been safe. I did a summer research fellowship in Steve Finkbeiner’s lab at the Gladstone Institutes (affiliated with UCSF) during my undergrad and really loved the collaborative environment and overall atmosphere. So it’s really nice to know that I will at least be comfortable with the area and things.
This post doesn’t change anything about my current status – still in the “postgraduate student” phase where I’m working on getting all this research I’ve already done published – and completely committed to my current position and finishing strong.
But I did want to fill people in – and maybe help explain why I’ve been so rapaciously reading o-chem textbooks and streaming chemical biology lectures on the weekends and early mornings!