Laleh Boroujerdi-Rad

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

I am conducting research in virology under the mentorship of Dr. Paul D. Gershon in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. One of the lab's main aims is to characterize the molecular dynamics of the vaccinia virus poly(A) polymerase, VP55. My project is to design, grow, and assay mutants of this protein to determine which residues are involved in important functions.

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

I started research at the end of my freshman year in a molecular immunology laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Leman Yel at the College of Medicine. I found many opportunities listed on the UROP website ( and the Bio 199 website (, and I read many faculty profiles ( to discover research areas that excited me. Then I e-mailed several professors, visited their labs, and very soon I was working in a lab!

3. How has research enhanced your education?

Research enhances what I learn in the classroom, and vice versa. Many of the concepts covered in my biology courses apply to my laboratory work, and, as a result of my research experience, I have a better understanding of these concepts and think about them from a more critical or practical standpoint. Research has also provided me with the opportunity to interact one-on-one with faculty and gain insight on the research process. As a result of the knowledge and critical thinking I gained from research, I was able to win the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in my sophomore year. Finally, I have grown to appreciate how rewarding yet challenging research is, and I have been inspired to pursue a research career.

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

I immensely enjoyed presenting at the UROP Symposium in the spring of 2005. I was amazed by the atmosphere of curiosity and excitement toward research that was shared by students and faculty alike. Not only was I inspired by the work of other students, I was pleasantly surprised that so many people were interested in my project. So many people approached me to discuss my poster that I almost never stopped talking during the entire hour!

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

My goal is to earn a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and pursue a career as a professor at a research university. My research training as an undergraduate has helped me to define the areas I am interested in, learn some of the methods and tools used in laboratories, develop data analysis and problem solving skills, and get a glimpse of life as a graduate student. My research experience will be a major component of my application for graduate programs. I am also a member of the Student Editorial Board for the nationally recognized UCI Undergraduate Research Journal, and I have developed many writing and editing skills that will help me succeed in graduate school and beyond.

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

You never know what you will like until you try, so go for it! Most professors are very approachable, and if you e-mail them, they are usually more than willing to discuss possible research projects with you or suggest other labs, if they do not currently have room in their own. Although it may occasionally seem like you keep repeating an experiment that is not working, the process is worthwhile in the end. Finally, try to get involved in many aspects of the research process, from writing proposals to presenting at conferences. Good luck!

Past Researchers of the Month
Dec. '06 Megan Trotter
Nov. '06 Allison Zemek
Oct. '06 Jeremy Roth
Sept. '06 Crystal Wang
Aug. '06 Michael Thompson
Jul. '06 Kimberly Balazs
Jun. '06 Joseph Boufadel
May '06 Vicky Zhou
Apr. '06 Jessica Morreale
Mar. '06 Talinn Toorian
Feb. '06 Vivek Mehta
Jan. '06 Pernille Hemmer
Recent Year