Through molecular biology. In the past year and

Through studying Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and working as a Research Specialist in
Dr. Kathryn Wellen’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Cancer Biology I’ve gained a
unique skillset that will allow me to thrive in a biomedical engineering PhD program. In my
undergraduate work I’ve take on projects ranging from building device prototypes, programming
applications, or engineering genetic logic circuits. While During the past year and a half as a research
specialist I’ve designed and performed experiments to understand the links between cellular
metabolism, epigenetics, and gene expression in adipose tissue. These experiences have allowed me to
confirm my deep interest in solving problems in the fields of cellular metabolism, gene circuits, or
epigenetics by controlling cellular and molecular systems, and in looking at molecular biology from a
quantitative, computational, or design perspective. My ability to be versatile, take on new lab
techniques, and explore different aspects of cell biology will make me a great fit in the multidisciplinary
field of biomedical engineering. I will also have the opportunity to enroll in organic chemistry and
biochemistry courses at UPenn before the Fall 2018 semester begins to secure a strong foundation in
chemistry and molecular biology.
In the past year and a half, my project in the Wellen Lab has generated multiple directions. In brief, the
goal of my project is to understand the role of ATP-citrate lyase (ACLY), an enzyme that supplies the cell
with the metabolite acetyl-CoA, during adipocyte differentiation as well as in mature adipose tissue both
in vitro and in vivo. Because acetyl-CoA is the building block for lipid synthesis, as well as a source for the
acetylation of histones and other proteins, ACLY has an important role in regulating metabolism, gene
expression, and protein signaling. All of these processes are important in cellular differentiation. This
means that I am often designing experiments and performing techniques in lab that are new to me to
understand these various aspects of cell biology. I’ve worked extensively with cell lines generated from
primary adipocytes in which I’ve designed experiments to understand changes in cellular metabolite
concentrations or the incorporation of labeled nutrients into lipids by mass spectrometry or radio-label
incorporation. I’ve also successfully designed and performed an RNA-sequencing experiment and
processed the resulting data to understand gene expression changes and generate hypotheses about
cellular processes that are impacted in this differentiation model. More recently, I have been
investigating how dietary stressors can impact systemic metabolism in genetically engineered mouse
models. Through these experiences, I’ve explored how an in vitro model might be similar or different
than biology occurring in vivo or how changes in cellular metabolism, the epigenome, and protein
signaling, are dynamic and interconnected. These skills will be especially applicable in a project
designing and manipulating molecular and cellular systems, and understanding how perturbations in
some cellular processes can affect others. During this time I have contributed to two publications as a
coauthor. The manuscript for my major project is in preparation and is likely to be submitted by the
Spring of 2018.
As an undergraduate studying biomedical engineering at Boston University I’ve worked on a variety of
projects ranging from engineering gene circuits, building device prototypes, investigating studies in
bioinformatics, or even programming applications. In general, these projects have taught me to gather
information and use it to create new tools, whether it’s a physical device or manipulating the activity of
enzymes in a cell. My first in depth experience designing and carrying out a research project was on the
Boston University International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team. Myself, along with a team
of five other students, identified a research question and constructed a plan to address it by building a
cellular prototype. Our goal was to build a toolkit that could be used to control the activity of DNA editing enzymes by small molecules. To do this, we combed the literature to identify proteins and other
peptide domains suitable to test our toolkit, wrote a MATlab script to help predict cloning strategy,
followed by cloning and testing constructs in mammalian cells by flow cytometry. We presented this
research in a 30-minute presentation at the iGEM International Conference. As an undergraduate in the
Klapperich Laboratory at Boston University I developed a novel device to diagnose Tuberculosis in lowresource
settings by concentrating urinic bio-markers. Through this project, I learned how to bring a
device from initial conception to functioning prototype. I optimized parameters including the device
shape, heating times and temperatures, and the portable power source design. We also built an Android
phone application to analyze the test results and alleviate the risk of misdiagnosis. In my future research
I’m looking forward to combining my molecular biology background from my project in the Wellen Lab
with the engineering and design skills I’ve honed as an undergraduate to be successful in a project that
may involve computation, molecular biology, and prototype design.
In my PhD work, I will leverage my experience studying systemic and molecular biology to control
biological systems on a molecular level. I’m especially interested in pursuing research in combining
computational and molecular biology approaches to understand and manipulate biological systems.
Whether it is pushing the metabolic efficiency of mammalian or single-celled organisms, engineering
increasingly complex genetic circuits with multiple inputs and outputs, manipulating the epigenome, or
developing new methods to understand biology on a single-cell level. Specifically, Dr. Kathryn MillerJensen’s
research on cellular heterogeneity’s contribution to immune response is especially interesting
and combines my experience in molecular biology and signaling pathways with computation and
prototype design. Dr. Michael Murrell’s work in cellular and intracellular forces is also exciting and is an
opportunity for me to combine my engineering and molecular biology experience to study molecular
machines and other forces in cells that control cellular phenotypes. I envision completing a thesis in one
of these labs would allow me to master the ability to study molecular biology from a quantitative,
computational, and design perspective.