Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Meet The Researcher | Biology of Aging | Biology of Aging | May 19, 2015
Stoveken, a graduate student in the Biology of Aging program, became interested in science after his high
school biotechnology program at Middleton High School in Wisconsin.
The program worked
with a local biotech company to provide educational resources to teachers interested
in conducting basic molecular biology experiments with their students.
“It gave me experience propagating and manipulating DNA, and also a
fundamental understanding of genetic information,” Stoveken said. “This is
essential for what we do in our research.”
initially was interested in biomedical engineering and was drawn to the biology
of aging after a course his sophomore year.
“It was one
of those things that stuck with me. It’s something you bury as a seed inside
your mind, but as you get older and as you start to see people in your family
get older, or you encounter people who have some of these age-associated
illnesses, it becomes much more real,” he said.
Health Science Center’s pioneering research in the field of aging through the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, Stoveken was drawn to the Biology of Aging program offered by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
currently working on research regarding neurodegenerative diseases in Dr. James Lechleiter’s lab, specifically looking at the PERK protein and
understanding how mutations affect the protein’s activities using super
that PERK is an interesting and dynamic molecule in which heightened PERK
activity is observed in age-associated neurodegenerative conditions, and
mutations in PERK are associated with a neurological disease called progressive
supranuclear palsy (PSP).
proteins are situated in membranes within cells, and they cluster together in
response to stress,” Stoveken said. “This clustering is thought to activate
PERK, and super-resolution microscopy lets us see it happen in cells.”
“So if we
can watch this happening then we can ostensibly find ways to block it from
occurring. We can also understand if
PSP-associated mutations cause PERK activity to increase or otherwise alter its
behavior in some way as we age.”
explained that the long-term possibilities of his research could lead to
and regulating PERK activity may be critical for treating Prion disease, as
well as PSP, Alzheimer’s disease, and several other diseases characterized by
aggregation of a protein called tau.” he said.
that he hopes that the work he is doing will make a difference.
unfortunately a really difficult protein to study but we are starting to make some
progress,” he said. “We really do think that the microscopy approach is a novel
way to study it.”
that in the future, he would like to continue the work he is doing in the lab
and also create his own program similar to the one he attended.
“I was lucky
to have excellent teachers/mentors, and to spend time in an education-oriented
lab group during college and I want to carry this tradition of scientific
education forward,” he said.
that there is, and always has been a need to mentor students in the sciences — not
to turn everybody into a scientist, but to give people the toolset that a
scientific worldview provides so that they can approach problems
scientifically,” he said. “There is not a single discipline that I can think of
where that wouldn’t come in handy.”
This article is part of the "Meet The Researcher" series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
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