Graduate student voice in the news

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BMSB PhD student Nicole Lynn (Torres lab) writes second article for ASBMB Today magazine as part of their contributor program.  

Lynn’s article titled “Decoding a protein’s role in connective tissue disorders” was featured in the August 18, 2020 issue of ASBMB Today, the member magazine of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).

The article details a recent collaborative study from the Layne lab at Boston University on the connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Here, scientists focused on the processing mechanisms of a critical extracellular matrix (ECM) protein often mutated in EDS patients, known as ACLP. They discovered glycosylation, or the addition of sugars to ACLP, plays a key role in cellular secretion. An additional highlight of this study was the characterization of an ACLP mutation specific to patients with EDS that also disrupted cellular exit. The mutation, known as ACLP-ins40, results in the addition of forty amino acids to the collagen binding region of ACLP and leads to cellular retention. The Layne lab and their colleagues hope that the research performed will contribute to a better understanding of this disease.

The ASBMB contributor’s program is a voluntary program that provides opportunities for graduate students and science professionals alike to convey stories, recount journals, and communicate science with the ASBMB community (including scientific and lay audiences). ASBMB often puts out calls for budding writers on their webpage. After having a positive experience with her previous article, Lynn reached out to the editor and asked to join as an ongoing contributor.

Lynn’s first ASBMB Today article about women’s health appeared in the May 10,2020 issue, as part of the magazine’s celebration of National Women’s Health Week.

A third-year graduate student in the Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) program, Lynn conducts research in Professor Jorge Torres’ group. She studies a human family of microtubule severing enzymes known as Katanins, and is working to characterize their potential unique functions and capacity for compensation in cells due to observed isoform redundancies.  

As an undergraduate researcher in Professor Craig LaMunyon’s group at the California Polytechnic State University, Lynn studied the genetic and molecular biology analysis of C. elegans and investigated the effects of mutated genes on spermatogenesis. Her research there was sponsored by diversity programs including NIH funded TRIO-McNAIR and RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement), which promoted/encouraged her interest in pursuing a Ph.D. Lynn graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. She joined Torres’ group in 2018.

Lynn is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) Training Fellow, and a Cota Robles Fellow. She is actively involved in events and outreach with the UCLA’s Graduate Biochemistry Student Association (gBSA), UCLA’s Advancing Women in Science and Engineering (AWise), and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), all of which engage in youth-based promotion of science in underrepresented Los Angeles communities as well as charter and other Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) based schools (examples include UCLA’s Exploring Your Universe, CNSI Nanovation, and AWise STEM day).

After receiving her Ph.D., Lynn is interested in pursuing a career in industry or potentially in translational research. “I really enjoy benchwork and seeing projects move forward,” she said. “I also have growing interests in scientific communication, outreach and education. It would be great to find a position where I can both perform research and also help disseminate science to the surrounding community. As I transition into my third year at UCLA, I will work to direct my focus towards ironing out these goals such that by the end of my time here I have a clear idea of what comes next.”

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,