• Title Graduate Student – Zaia Lab
  • Office 670 Albany Street. 5th Floor, Zaia lab
  • Phone 8-6760
  • Area of Interest mass spectrometry, glycosylation

Aside from 9th grade biology, I took exactly one biology class—during my sophomore year of college—before starting the PiBS program at BUSM. Instead of focusing on biology, I favored more quantitative sciences, double majoring in chemistry and physics. I went on to earn a master’s degree in physics, concentrating on solid state nuclear magnetic resonance. Eventually, however, I landed a job as a research associate in a proteomics lab at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, which turned out to be a pivotal moment in my life. With great mentoring from my PI, Daniel Martin, I discovered how satisfying mass spectrometry experiments can be. They’re like solving a giant biological puzzle. What appealed to me most about proteomics was the wide variety of techniques that needed to be used in combination with one another to solve the puzzle, such as complicated machinery, computational bioinformatics, and chemistry, in addition to more traditional molecular biology.

 

It turns out that identifying the peptide sequences in a complex sample might be the easier part of the puzzle. Once you take glycosylation into account, the complexity of the sample increases enormously. Unlike linear peptide chains, glycans can be nonlinear structures with varying linkages. Furthermore, each glycosylation site can be occupied by many different glycoforms, conferring a heterogeneity that makes analysis difficult. Fortunately, my main research interest is in finding ways to solve complex puzzles. As a member of the Zaia lab here in the biochemistry department, I use mass spectrometry to study the evolution of the glycosylation patterns of hemagglutinin, one of the surface glycoproteins of influenza virus. Hemagglutinin is important in adhesion of viruses to glycans on host cell surfaces. Glycosylation of hemagglutinin shields antigenic sites, allowing the virus to evade neutralization by host immune cells. By studying how hemagglutinin glycosylation evolves, I hope to achieve a deeper understanding of how influenza virus balances infectivity and immunogenicity, which will aid the development of more effective vaccines or other novel interventions.

View all people