He is currently studying the neurogenetics of circadian rhythms and aging, and serves as a co-representative for public affairs in UCSF's Associated Students of the Graduate Division.
Tell us about your path to UCSF, and your current research.
I began at UCSF just over a year ago as an incoming graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences PhD program. I spent my childhood in Singapore before coming to the U.S. for my undergraduate degree at UCLA. Originally, I intended to pursue evolutionary biology, but I veered towards biomedicine after coming to the realization that I wanted to focus on work more translatable to human health. My first exposure to a molecular biology lab environment was there under Dr. Patrick Allard, studying disruptions in transgenerational epigenetics after pesticide exposure.
My current research is in the lab of Dr. Ying-Hui Fu and Dr. Louis Ptacek. Their past work has focused on genetic mutations in humans that affect normal sleep patterns. They have studied families with certain mutations that shift the natural sleep-wake cycle backwards or forwards several hours, even in controlled conditions. They have also found how the altered protein is causing this.
I am investigating a mutation in a gene called Dec2, that seems to allow its bearers the ability to be more resistant to the negative effects of chronically reduced sleep times. These individuals can sleep for their entire lifetimes in amounts that would be detrimental to most of the population. I want to uncover how the mutant gene operates differently to allow this, and if it also grants resistance to certain diseases exacerbated by sleep restriction, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
You are involved with coordinating the UCSF Basic Sciences Alumni Seminar Series. Tell us about the series.
The series was originally created a couple years ago exclusively for Quantitative Biology students and alumni. After continued success, and a lack of similar events for many other programs, PhD student Yuliya Birman and I began working to expand it to incorporate alumni from more diverse backgrounds and students across the UCSF community.
Our goal is to create a safe and open space for students to learn about their potential career opportunities from primary sources. We want a casual atmosphere where one can ask more candid questions about the lifestyle one can expect in the industry being presented. An alumnus/a will usually provide a brief explanation of what they do and their job history, and the remainder of the hour is a casual discussion about whatever the students are curious about. It’s a great way to gain insight into the nitty-gritty details of a career path without having to invest too much time in it.
What led you to join UCSF Connect and what are some of its features that you like to use?
I joined UCSF Connect because I wanted to have an early start on getting involved with our university community. UCSF has the rare combination of being a world-class research institution while remaining small enough to foster the atmosphere of a more intimate, collaborative environment. I want to take advantage of this; we have so many great minds here that it would be amazing to meet. As the platform develops, I am hopeful that it will be increasingly used to form new connections over common interests between like-minded individuals.
I am curious about a number of different professions that I could see myself pursuing following my PhD program. UCSF Connect allows me to directly contact UCSF alumni in any of these fields to set up informational interviews, which is invaluable as a student exploring as much as I can. Ideally my networking through UCSF Connect can inform my decision-making and help get my foot in the door for a career.
Further, as a coordinator for a registered campus organization in the Basic Sciences Alumni Seminar Series, UCSF Connect grants me a platform to easily inform the community about our upcoming events, as well as spread interest among alumni for joining our program as guest speakers. The platform gives me access to a huge, integrated database of alumni and faculty, and importantly, their stated willingness to help out students or organizations. In this context, UCSF Connect has already proven invaluable. Alumni and students interested in learning more are welcome to join our group on UCSF Connect and get involved.
Interview conducted by Sara Ayazi, a career counselor and program manager with the UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development.