Black Lab Blog Post #2 – Alice Wei, Rotation Student

January 23, 2020

Hi, I’m Alice, a rotation student in Ben Black’s lab. I’m currently working with Praveen on the stoichiometry of centromere assembly and centromere-kinetochore interaction during mitosis.

I am a first-year graduate student from the Chemistry department, the only one with a Chemistry background in this lab. I began my scientific research in a group focused on biomimic, biological nanopore sequencing. Single molecule detection, visual nanopores on a platform, next generation sequencing, everything was so fascinating to me as an undergraduate student and I really enjoyed investigating the unknown with curiosity and efforts. This exciting endeavor, although sometimes painful when facing the possibility of endless failure, drove me to pursue a PhD.

I decided to continue studying Chemistry, but became more and more interested in Biology, especially DNA and protein structure and their function in living organisms. Luckily, I found the crossroad of these two subjects, and decided to move forward in studying epigenetics. I’ve finished two rotations since last semester, the first on nucleosome structure with X-ray crystallography, followed by DNA modification quantification by mass spectroscopy. The great power of analytical techniques and their broad applications made me want to learn Cryo-EM, which led me to Ben Black’s lab.

Ben is a warm-hearted and thoughtful person. When I first saw him, I was surprised that he wrote everything in a notebook and talked about my rotation project in a very clear manner. My interests lie in the research of the core centromeric nucleosome complex and its transformation during mitosis, so he prepared a project combining my formal research experience and my interests in his lab. He considers so much for a rotation student like me, which makes me really motivated.

The environment in Ben’s lab is quiet but friendly. Every time I encounter a hurdle in an experiment, my colleagues are willing to help with patience. They are enthusiastic about their own research, I feel like I could see stars shining in their eyes when they are talking about their projects! Their passion inspires me and drives me to further learn about CENP-A biology. Also, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with other labs, and participate in weekly Chromo Club meetings to learn more about this field. I quite enjoy my life here and hope I will get the chance to be a member of this lab.