Undergraduate Research Program

Casey Chen

Major: Chemistry
Mentor: Matthew Bush, Chemistry

Contact: chenxcas@uw.edu

Current research project: Uncovering Substrates of Yeast E3 Ligase Using an Integrative Mass Spectrometry Strategy






Casey is a junior in Chemistry at the University of Washington. She’s currently working with Professor Matt Bush and Daniele Canzani in the Department of Chemistry on characterizing the substrates of the substrate specific E3 ubiquitin ligase in yeast through a comprehensive mass spectrometry based method. She is also working on measuring the absolute ion mobility collision cross sections of phospholipids in positive and negative ionization modes. In her free time, she enjoys lifting, drinking too much coffee, attempting to climb with friends, napping, and drawing.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
E3 ligases are enzymes responsible for conjugating ubiquitin onto a protein, and the ubiquitin tags the protein for degradation by the proteasome. These enzymes are substrate specific, but little is known about what degrons (the specific amino acid motifs) they recognize in proteins. We are culturing and purifying E3s in yeast and we are developing and refining an integrative mass spectrometry based method to characterize these degrons. Part of this method involves native mass spectrometry, which allows for the direct measurement of E3 interactions with substrates. Along with liquid chromatography mass spectrometry and cross-linking mass spectrometry, we hope to be able to achieve a complete overview of the E3 degron interactions in cells.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
My first quarter of freshman year, I asked my CHEM 145 professor in the first office hours for advice on how to get involved in undergraduate research, and he gave me the advice and motivation I needed to reach out. I found Professor Bush’s research while exploring the department page. I reached out to him over email with a cover letter, my transcript, and resume (even though this was my fall quarter of freshman year and I had absolutely no grades or experience at this point) to basically ask for a chance to be involved. I was honestly shocked and overjoyed that he decided to give me a chance. I’ve been working with Professor Bush and my graduate student mentor since winter of my freshman year.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Visit drop in advising at URP, attend an info session, or ask your friends about how to get involved if you’re having trouble finding a starting point. Don’t be afraid to reach out! If you find a professor whose research you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to send out an email to express interest. Do make sure to do your own research first, read publications and think about how/why you want to be involved. It’s scary to send that first email, but getting involved in research is such a rewarding experience that it’s worth it to step out and reach out!