Why did you choose the Biochemistry PhD program at A&M?
The biochemistry department at A&M offers a wide range of research options which is what drew me here. There are professors here who are known experts in their respective fields and it is my privilege to be able to learn from one of them.
How did the first year of the program help you prepare for your independent research project?
With the coursework and rotations, the first year of graduate school here is challenging but all the subjects covered provide a well-rounded perspective on how to design experiments, read scientific literature critically and think independently. The faculty here are very approachable and encourage students to aim higher and do better. This (first) year also allows you to make friends who form your study group initially but ultimately stick by you through graduate school.
How have your experiences in the BIO BIO graduate program shaped your thinking, especially as a scientist?
As a protein-based lab, we rely on protein kinetics, different binding assays, NMR, mass spectrometry, protein crystallization and ligand docking techniques to get data. The exposure to numerous techniques helps to broaden the way you think about what is possible in science.
What is the subject of your thesis research?
Currently I am working in Dr. Frank Raushel’s lab which is affectionately known as the ‘Enzyme factory’. Our work involves the study of protein structure-function relationships. The focus of my project is the phosphonate operon (phnCDEFGHIJKLMNOP) in bacteria, whose gene products cleave the highly stable C-P bond of organophosphonate compounds (examples: herbicides, nerve gases) in a series of enzymatic steps, thereby using organophosphonates as sources of inorganic phosphate under phosphate limiting conditions. Of the fourteen genes in the operon, I work with four (PhnG, PhnH, PhnI and PhnL) proteins which collectively catalyze the first step of the pathway, where combining PhnG, PhnH, PhnI and PhnL with MgATP and methylphosphonate forms ribose-1-methylphosphonate-5-triphosphate and adenine. However the exact roles of the individual proteins are unknown.
What is the best part about being part of the BIO BIO program?
The best part about being part of Bio-Bio is apart from academics, is that there is always something fun going on. From different intra-lab competitions during Halloween to tail-gating parties during football games, to a department-wide potluck during Thanksgiving, to impromptu breakfast sessions organized by the department; it feels great to be part of the department!