Undergraduate Research Program

Marium Raza

Major: Biochemistry; CHID
Mentor: Sharona Gordon, Dept. Physiology & Biophysics; Dr. Dale Langford, Dept. Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine

Contact: mraza99@uw.edu

Current research project: Visualizing Protein Conformational Dynamics Using Unnatural Amino Acids and FRET


Marium Raza is a graduating senior with degrees in Biochemistry and Comparative History of Ideas. Her personal experiences with rheumatoid arthritis motivated her to study the pain she so often felt growing up. So, as a freshman she started working in the Gordon lab, studying the polymodal pain receptor TRPV1. Marium has also been involved in a project with Dr. Langford to better understand women’s pain after breast cancer surgery. Outside of her research, Marium is passionate about innovating and advocating to support the health needs of uninsured communities. She aspires to continue doing so in the future, as a physician.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
What happens if you bite into a spicy habanero pepper? If you touch your skin after a sunburn? If you’re anything like me – you say ouch! Scientifically, the pain you experience due to a number of factors (including heat, inflammation, capsaicin, and toxins) is mediated by a pain receptor in your peripheral nervous system called TRPV1. These receptors are ion channels that open and close. My lab hopes to better understand the structure and movements of this protein. My current project is investigating how we can develop a new system, using the unnatural amino acid Acd, to study how proteins change shape in different conditions. Our hope is that with a better understanding of TRPV1’s structural movements, we can help develop new pain medication that is more effective, with fewer side effects.


When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in research in the winter of my freshman year, by finding a posting for the Gordon lab (where I still work) on the URP database that I was really interested in. Since then, I’ve learned that research can look like many different things. I got involved in clinical research through the Scan Design Innovations in Pain Research program the summer after my sophomore year. I worked on archival research through the Svoboda project during my junior year. Why I got involved in these different projects comes down to something simple: I thought they were cool. I had questions about pain, about disease, and about medicine. Research was a way to begin answering my questions, while also generating many more.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
I highly encourage all students at UW, regardless of their discipline, to get involved in undergraduate research! My advice would be to remain persistent – you might get lucky and find a great research position after your first shot, but you might not. Keep searching, and keep emailing. And then remain persistent when you get there, especially when your project hits its inevitable speedbumps.