Laleh Boroujerdi-Rad

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

Alongside a talented group of post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, and other undergraduates, I research under the guidance of Dr. Gregory Weiss, in the Department of Chemistry and the School of Biological Sciences. I have been investigating the non-covalent protein / small-molecule interactions responsible for molecular recognition and binding affinity. Specifically, using a technique known as “alanine/glycine shotgun-scanning” which employs libraries of genetically engineered bacteriophage and enzyme-linked molecular assays, I have worked to elucidate the intricacies of the streptavidin / biotin interaction.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I first began my research in the Weiss Laboratory near the end of the winter 2002. I was introduced to Dr. Weiss by a former professor and faculty mentor who recognized the promising opportunities of researching at the intersection of chemistry and biology, and the benefit of working for a motivating and supportive primary investigator.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

Research has allowed me to pursue my own educational path marked with its unique set of successes and failures. The process of pursuing answers to “basic scientific questions” involves the incorporation of the skills and knowledge gained in classes and academic labs, the expertise of top scientists, and the insight and efforts of a team of dedicated researchers. To that end, research has given me a great appreciation for the collegiality of academia, and a taste of the excitement of pursuing a mystery. Over the past several years, I have benefited from both my successes and failures - learning to design and carry-out complex experiments, to present and explain the significance of (seemingly) esoteric data, and write convincingly about my research exploits. Most significantly, my experiences with research have empowered me to take charge of my education – to ask the tough questions, and if necessary, answer them myself (with some help).

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

Given that my most rewarding research experiences have been the opportunities to teach my fellow lab mates about the techniques and data relating to our research, my favorite experiences have surrounded my friendships with those people in and about the lab… the lighthearted conversations, late-night sessions musing over cell-cultures and ELISA plates, and weekend backpacking tours to break up the rigors of bench-work.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

Though my experiences in academia have sparked my interest in laboratory research, they have also helped me nurture my passion for medicine. As such, I will be attending UC San Francisco’s M.D. program this fall in hopes of beginning a career in academic medicine.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

Don’t underestimate your ability to succeed in a research position. Whether your talents lie in the sciences, the humanities or the arts, the benefits of engaging in research are more than worth conquering any hesitations you might have. The irony is that after a few months the intimidation vanishes - professors become mentors and friends, your discipline becomes personalized and exciting, and you can distinguish yourself as a student. Go for it!

Past Researchers of the Month
Dec. '04 Martin Vega
Nov. '04 Peter Kuo
Oct. '04 Michelle Plyer
Sep. '04 Camille Campion
Aug. '04 Ahmed Ibrahim
Jul. '04 Gregoria Barazandeh
Jun. '04 Matthew Korn
May '04 Jolene Minakary
Apr. '04 Zhanna Kovaleva
Mar. '04 Dorothy Chang
Feb. '04 Elizabeth Yanni
Jan. '04 Brad Cohn
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