I am a researcher at Rockefeller University in NYC. I study chromatin – stuff that packages DNA in the nucleus and regulates gene function.
I am a researcher at Rockefeller University in Manhattan. I study chromatin – stuff that packages DNA in the nucleus and regulates gene function.
DNA is not naked in the nucleus – it’s compacted by proteins called “histones”. These are organized into small complexes called “nucleosomes” (look like hockey pucks with DNA wrapped around them) – and there are millions of nucleosomes in every nucleus. Histones have long tails that carry chemical modifications, telling other proteins smth like “this part of the genome is active – read it now!” or “this part of the genome should be silent” or “this needs to be compacted” or a lot of other stuff. It’s called “epigenetic regulation” – (epi in Greek means “on top of”) – on top of the genome. I work on the intersection of genomics (“big data”) and biochemistry (a pretty odd combination) to understand the connection between compaction and function of the genome.
It is super important because DNA is the same in all* of your cells (*almost). yet cells are so different (you have skin, and nerves, and muscles, and bones, for example) – meaning same DNA is interpreted differently. Epigenetic regulation is the reason why. Also, consider that mutations in epigenetic regulators are probably the most common cause of cancers and developmental disorders.
My Typical Day:
Wake up at 6. Prep kids for school. Lots of emails and paperwork. Some work with tissue culture, occasional “wet lab” experiment (I rarely do those anymore but spent 15 years “at the bench”). Random phone calls and meetings. Occasional seminar. Pick up kids from school, cook dinner, clean up, get them to bed. More emails. Sometimes swing by the lab before midnight to finish the “wet lab” experiment.
“wet lab” refers to actual experiments that you think about when you imagine scientists (with beakers, solutions, and such). It rarely looks like that in real life though – we’ve had filming crews pass through the lab before, and were asked to “look like scientists” – because what we actually do is eitehr too small or just looks liike a giant table with a bunch of numbers. It can be an incredibly important table, but it’s not that cool to film – so we dress up in white coats, and swirl colored solutions for the cameras.
What I'd do with the prize money:
no clue, but I’m not in it for the money.
St. Petersburg State University Faculty of Medicine (Russia) – 2000-2006 (MD, sort of)
University of Iowa – 2006-2013 (PhD)
Rockefeller University 2013 – current (postdoc)
I worked odd jobs in college (like filling out diplomas using calligraphic writing for cash), and went on digs with the real archaeologists as “brute force” guy – it’s a lot of digging. But my first real salaried (with taxes) job was graduate school.
postdoc – it’s when you already have a PhD but are not a professor yet. I’m starting a tenure-track professorship this summer though.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
made a lot of friends
What was your favorite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
i'd be an archaeologist. I used to go on archaeology digs.
Who is your favorite singer or band?
Jonas Kaufmann is ok but no one beats Pavarotti.
What's your favorite food?
skirt steak with chimichurri sauce.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
went digging fossils with my 6-yo daugther on a whim. Found a lot!