photo of Natalie McArthur
PhD Graduate Student
New York
Short Research Description: 

Previous Institution: University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Full Research Description: 

I was born in California and lived in Maine but spent most of my life in Massachusetts. I
had a passion for science from a very young age and this was supported by my two parents who
were also scientists who work in the biotech industry. After graduating from high school, I went to
the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for my undergraduate studies where I graduated with a
Bachelor of Science with Honors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2018. In the
Gierasch Laboratory at UMass Amherst I studied the structural and functional effects of various
mutations in heat shock proteins (Hsp70). In the Gierasch lab, I developed a passion for
understanding protein biophysical dynamics and how these contribute to their function and
molecular interactions in the cell. My 2 ½ years on this project, was the subject of my senior
thesis and contributed to a publication which is currently under review for PNAS. This work
provided me with training in molecular biology, mutagenisis and cloning, protein biochemistry,
and biophysical characterization methods, along with fostering a passion for understanding the
role of proteins in the cell and how they interact with other molecules to contribute to a healthy
cellular environment.
Through my studies in heat shock proteins, I have learned how widespread the effects of a
singular protein can be in the cell along with appreciating just how deleterious minor functional
changes can be. I aim to use my knowledge from this work and apply it to my graduate research
to expand my knowledge of the molecular underpinnings of a cell. There are several research
directions that I am interested in, the first being the biophysical and structural study of proteins.
The understanding of their structure is critical to nearly all cellular pathways and I am fascinated
by the relationship between intracellular interactions and protein structure. Secondly, I am
interested in applying my knowledge of protein structure and function relationships to the study
of molecular pathways and homeostasis in the cell. Whether this is developmental, or disease
associated pathways, I am intrigued by how these complex reactions dictate a cell’s fate. Finally,
I am especially interested in the molecular etiology of diseases, particularly neurologic diseases,
and what changes within the cell causes it to shift from a healthy to a diseased state. The role of
proteins in a disease pathology is widespread and I aim to uncover how the intracellular
environment enters an unhealthy state to ultimately learn how to treat harmful disorders.
From structural and biophysical research, to the study of a protein’s role in molecular
pathways and disease, I am eager to continue my passion for scientific research in the Columbia
scientific community.

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