Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Cholpisit Kiattisewee, Molecular Engineering; Diego Alba Burbano, Chemical Engineering

Current Research project: Characterizing Multi-Guide RNA CRISPR Activation Genetic Circuits for Large Scale Gene Regulation


Semira is a rising senior majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Washington and minoring in Global Health. She is interested in the complexities of biological systems in biomedical research and exploring various avenues of the scientific field to expand her knowledge in the life sciences. Since June of 2019, Semira has been working under the Carothers Lab on CRISPR-Cas transcriptional programs and constructing metabolic pathways, gaining newfound insight into the versatility of gene regulation in metabolic engineering. She strives to incorporate her synthetic biology background towards mammalian cell engineering in therapeutics to combat infectious or immunological diseases, combining the practices in the biosynthetic industry with medical research applications. Semira aspires to have a career as a biomedical researcher and dismantle the barriers present for underrepresented communities in the STEM field. Outside of research, she enjoys listening to various genres of music, watching anime, and visiting cafes with friends.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The utilization of the CRISPR-Cas9 system has been an effective and versatile method of genetic manipulation in the last two decades. The CRISPR-Cas system allows researchers to edit the sequence of arbitrary genes by acting as molecular scissors, cutting the strands of DNA and exploiting the DNA’s repair mechanism innate in the genome of a cell. My work explores utilizing and modifying the CRISPR-Cas9 system to control gene expression, vital in metabolic engineering with capabilities to regulate the production of valuable chemical compounds in various microbes; providing a more eco-friendly, industrial biosynthesis process and advantages for medical therapeutics. Our main goals are to deepen the understanding of biological design principles and engineer biology to produce industrially and medically significant chemicals/materials.



When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
Having previous but limited exposure to research during high school and a fascination for biological sciences, I desired the opportunity to develop my scientific skill sets and became involved with the GenOM ALVA program the summer before my first year. As my first undergraduate research experience, I found joy in exploring various avenues of the scientific field from designing experiments to engaging with peers and literature in the biomedical field, growing my passion for the life sciences as an avid beginner in research.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Being involved in research may initially seem daunting, however I assure you that taking those first steps does not have to be scary and that there are numerous resources and communities of students to seek out for such support. As you start to be involved in research, networking and never hesitating to ask questions will be vital in enriching your undergraduate research experience . In addition, it’s important to establish a proper work-life balance as you manage research with academics; ensuring you don’t experience burnout all while enjoying the added learning experience in undergrad.