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Undergraduate Research Program

Ellie Garcia

Garcia, Ellie 150x200
Majors: Biology, Psychology
Mentor: Richard Gardner, Pharmacology

Contact: emg96@uw.edu

Current research project: How Cells Regulate Cellular Trash: Uncovering a Novel Nuclear Quality Control Mechanism

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Every single cell produces proteins in order to perform cellular activities like replication, signaling, growth, etc. When proteins misfold they stop functioning correctly and can aggregate to other proteins, causing a mass accumulation of misfolded proteins. Cells that accumulate too many misfolded proteins will eventually die, which is why cells have mechanisms to help a misfolded protein refold or degrade. As part of my project I am uncovering an unknown mechanism that degrades misfolded proteins in the nucleus of yeast cells. This field of study is important because high quantities of misfolded proteins are associated with many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and ALS.

Do you have an interesting story to share about your research experience?
During my first week researching I wanted to try growing cells in liquid media on my own. So I got the media ready, and put it in the incubator just like my mentor showed me. Except the next morning I could not see any cell growth because I had forgotten to add the cells! We had to reschedule the entire experiment because I had forgotten to add cells to the media. Fortunately my mentor was very forgiving of all of my mistakes because they happen all the time in the beginning.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
It never hurts to try doing research. You can always leave if you do not like it, and will have learned something about yourself, but you may just fall in love with it.