Graduate Student Research

Justin Welden
My project focuses on studying the regulation and function of circular RNA's deregulated in Alzheimer tissues, addressing the larger question of how pre-mRNA alternative splicing and missplicing can lead to disease. We discovered that the microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) gene generates so far unknown circular RNAs. I am investigating the role of these circular RNAs and testing whether they contribute to Tauopathies and Alzheimer's disease. The mechanism for tau pathology is not understood and the strategies employed behind our research could potentially contribute to innovative ways for a cure, or preventative treatment, for tauopathy related diseases. I also investigate how a snoRNA (SNORD116) contributes to Prader-Willi syndrome. Determining the role and function of SNORD116, deleted in children with Prader-Willi Syndrome, will allow us to understand the mechanism of the disease and develop an effective treatment therapy where we use an oligo that would replace the missing snoRNA.

Biochemistry graduate students are well trained in various specialized research areas and in biochemistry in general. Students prepare and present their research at local conferences and seminars, at national meetings, and certainly in journal publications.

Each year, graduate students present a departmental seminar on an interesting area of research in which they do not directly work. This gives the student the ability to learn more about other fields of research as well as to develop presentation skills that are crucial preparation for their thesis defense and job interviews.

Students can also informally present their own research data to other graduate students in monthly Data Club meetings. This gives a student an opportunity to get feedback and advice on their projects from other students.

Finally, there are numerous invited speaker seminars and faculty interview seminars that students are encouraged to attend. Each year, students also select and invite one speaker from outside the University and take part in hosting and introducing this speaker. These are great opportunities for students to learn current research in other fields and to make contacts for possible postdoctoral positions and/or industry positions.