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Sharlene Shirali

Major: Neuroscience
Mentor:Jennifer Chao, Ophthalmology; Rayne Lim, Ophthalmology


Current research projects: Investigating anabolic pathways in Early-Onset Macular Drusen (EOMD) iPSC-RPE cells

Sharlene is a senior pursuing a major in Neuroscience. Her research project focuses on investigating the components of anabolic pathways in RPE cells, and their potential contribution to the pathology of early-onset macular drusen (EOMD), an inherited retinal degenerative disease. Sharlene hopes to combine the knowledge and skills she has learned in class and in the lab to work to develop cures for chronic neurological diseases. In her free time, Sharlene enjoys writing short stories and exploring new hiking trails, and places around Seattle, with her friends.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Retinal degenerative eye diseases have devastating effects on vision – even potentially leading to blindness. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, and is projected to affect up to 288 million people by 2040. While there are currently treatments to manage AMD, there are no cures available. My work aims to understand the relationships within RPE cells as they relate to AMD, and translate that knowledge into gene therapy to potentially reverse AMD.



When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research after taking a biology course at UW that allowed me to recognize my passion in science, and how they related to working in a lab. My experiences in class inspired me to find lab opportunities that would allow me to contribute to science. I learned about specific research opportunities through upperclassmen who had personal experience with working in a lab! My undergraduate research experience has been incredible, as I continue to evolve as an independent and critical thinker.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Take some time to reflect on topics, issues, and areas of knowledge that are important and interesting to you! Oftentimes, research is associated with certain areas of science, but there are actually undergraduate research opportunities available in a wide range of areas!