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Former undergraduate researcher alumna Abby Thurm ’20 Biochemistry (Gelbart/Knobler group) is featured on URC-Sciences’ Student Spotlight. 

Thurm is profiled on UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Center – Sciences’ “Student Spotlights” website. In 2020, she received Undergraduate Science Journal‘s Best Life Science Research Article in 2020 for her article titled “Defective-Interfering RNAs as Antiviral Therapy Against Yellow Fever Virus.” The Journal is a peer-reviewed publication registered with the Library of Congress, featuring top-quality research performed by UCLA undergraduates in all STEM fields.

A 2020 Dean’s Prize winner, Thurm was also profiled in the 2020 special centennial issue of the

UCLA College Magazine


Now a M.D./Ph.D. Student at Stanford University School of Medicine, Thurm’s career goal is to conduct translational research and teach at the university or graduate/medical school level. She completed her Ph.D. rotations during her first year of medical studies and has already joined Professor Lacra Bintu’s lab, beginning her dissertation work on the epigenetics of RNA modifications.

As an undergraduate researcher for three years in the UCLA Gelbart-Knobler Virus Group, Thurm studied viruses in both physical and pharmaceutical contexts, working on projects that involved the effects of RNA secondary structure on virion self-assembly, and the use of self-replicating mRNA for vaccines and for microRNA targeting of oncogenes. Three papers co-authored by Thurm were published while she was still an undergraduate, and two additional ones have been submitted. “Clearly these are just the first of a huge body of research work Abby will be contributing throughout her career as an M.D./Ph.D. scientist,” said Professor William Gelbart. 

In 2017, Thurm received a UCLA Raymond & Dorothy Wilson Research Fellowship. In 2018, she was a Summer Research Intern at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) where she conducted research in Professor Daniel Tenen’s group as part of the Harvard Internship Program. Her project focused on the utilization of noncoding RNAs to disrupt cell proliferation and differentiation, with specific aims of targeting malignant hematopoiesis, via the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 expression system and related technologies. In 2019, Thurm was one of three UCLA students to be named Goldwater Scholars.

While at UCLA, Thurm served as a mentor for the Collaboration for Undergraduate Research Experience where she helped younger undergraduates to increase their chances of success in joining and thriving in faculty labs, and for SCOPE: UCLA Youth Empowerment Program, a UCLA mentorship program aimed at establishing a support system for at-risk youth, where she provided one-on-one mentorship working closely with a LAUSD elementary school student and his family to improve academic, social, and problem-solving skills. 

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,