Please provide your lab and description of research.
I'm currently rotating in the Pappu Lab, where I'm currently exploring patchy colloid models of self-assembly. Proteins undergo phase separation to form a variety of membraneless bodies in cells. These bodies form when cells are stressed. They also form as a way to organize biochemical reactions. Intracellular phase separation, driven by so-called multivalent proteins, is an important and rapidly evolving area of research. This is because aberrant phase separation can give rise to altered cell fates leading to cancer and/or initiating the onset of neurodegeneration in diseases such as ALS. Recent studies have uncovered a major role for glycolytic enzymes in the regulation of synapses, which play central roles in forming short-term memories. The glycolytic enzymes are biological instantiations of what physicists refer to as patchy colloids. My project revolves around uncovering the design principles for the phase behavior of patchy colloids in cellular milieus. This work is being driven by computer simulations and theoretical calculations.
Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?
I've always enjoyed research and known I wanted to spend my career in academia, and PhD programs are an excellent way to both develop skills in particular areas of interest and to become a better scientist overall.
Why did you pick WashU?
My undergraduate PI received his doctorate from WashU and always spoke very highly of the BME department, its graduate program and the university as a whole. When I began applying to schools senior year, I found the research being performed by nearly every department member to be incredibly impressive.
What was your favorite course and why?
So far, my favorite course is Chemistry & Physics of Biomolecules. Its topics are closely related to my lab's work, and while there's certainly a steep learning curve when entering a new field, this class has managed to cover topics quickly and thoroughly without being unnecessarily stressful.
Who is your favorite instructor and why?
I've really enjoyed Jay Ponder's style of teaching. His enthusiasm for the field keeps students engaged and he has the wonderful ability to accessibly present concepts while still covering all the details necessary to a thorough understanding.
What advice would you give to a new student?
Focus on absorbing relevant concepts instead of getting straight As. Take classes that will help you in your research, ones that either introduce (or re-introduce) you to the core ideas of the field or ones that you think could be applied alongside your lab's current directions.
What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
Forest Park is incredible. It's quickly become my go-to route for morning runs.
Where are you from?
What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?
Stay connected with your class and go to random events together, you usually end up having fun regardless of the activity.