Exploring New Landscapes

Amherst College Science Center

Hi everyone! My name is Angela and I am a rising sophomore (‘23) from Shanghai, China interested in biomedical research and computational biology. This summer, I will be having my first remote research experience as a new member of the Jaswal Lab, and I look forward to documenting my learning process through the Network.

In the Jaswal lab, the goal of our research is to expand the study of protein folding, stability, and dynamics to previously inaccessible regions of the proteome by exploiting native-state hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry (HXMS). Protein folding is important because most proteins must fold into specific 3D structures in order to perform their function; as such, misfolding and/or destabilization can lead to various diseases. For instance, when β2Microglobulin (one of the proteins we study) is destabilized, the destabilized intermediate promptly aggregates into amyloid fibers (amyloidosis), causing severe pains in the patient. In our lab, we relate protein folding and stability to function and disease through a landscape framework. Compared to conventional methods, HXMS measures landscapes under native conditions, without inducing bulk unfolding. Several lab members are currently working to apply Numerical Simulations methods to fit possible models to HXMS data.

This summer, several lab members and I will be collaborating with Mt. Holyoke College’s Mcmenimen lab to construct modules about the science and methods of our research on protein folding and stability. Our lab currently stores all work on Evernote (a platform through which members can see the work of every student who has ever been in the Jaswal lab), which allows lab members to discuss each other’s work. As such, by drawing from our digital collection of 10 years of protocols, data, literature, presentations, and more than close to 50 students have contributed to during their time working in the Jaswal lab, we hope that planning, executing, analyzing and interpreting experiments will be much easier when we return to the campus.

Although we will no longer have a hands-on data collection experience, I am still super excited to acquire and develop skills in the computation, organization, and analysis of data. Moreover, we hope that this remote format can stretch and enforce the soft skills of collaboration and communication in the lab, perhaps to a greater degree when fellow lab members are not on the same campus.

When not working, I usually spend my time reading, biking at the trail, or attempting to learn Korean. I’m also aiming to help update and reboot the Jaswal Lab website by the end of the summer. Because of the ongoing pandemic, I’ll likely be staying on campus for the entirety of the internship. I am sure that these are unprecedented circumstances for all of us, and I hope to document my research experience for others in the Amherst community who might be in a similar situation 🙂