Elise Muñoz – Mass. Summer Research Prog. (MIT)

Elise in front of the Whitehead Institute where she worked all summer.I am a rising senior studying biochemistry, mathematics, and molecular and cellular biology. This summer I had the amazing experience to participate in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Summer Research Program (MSRP) in Biology and Neuroscience. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself standing in front of top-tier research scientists at MIT explaining my summer research and my future career goals, yet I was fortunate enough to do so this summer through MSRP. The MSRP program consisted of 45 diverse students from all over the United States and the world with a range of research interests in fields such as cognitive neuroscience, mathematics, and cancer biology. 
 
I worked in Dr. Susan Lindquist’s lab where I studied Alzheimer’s disease (AD), an age-related neurodegenerative disease characterized by accumulation of neuropathological conformers of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides that results in extensive neuronal loss. Exploring peptide and antibody therapeutics to target and inhibit soluble, toxic, oligomeric forms of Aβ is gaining increasing attention. My specific project was aimed at identifying candidate cyclic peptides in preventing Aβ-toxicity in a cellular system. I worked with a yeast model that was developed in the lab that recapitulates the processing and transport of human Aβ corresponding with Aβ-toxicity. While in the lab, I was able to develop a system using sortase-mediated circularization to generate cyclic peptides in vivo in our yeast model and was able to show protective capability of a candidate cyclic peptide.
 
Elise on the right and Ashley TarchioneNot only did I gain valuable first-hand research experience and so much knowledge in the field of neurodegeneration, I was exposed to a range of research fields and opportunities through faculty seminars and conferences. My experience with MSRP taught me more about who I am as a researcher and will be influential as I apply to graduate school this fall. 
 
In addition to spending countless hours in the lab, I was also able to explore the beautiful cities of Cambridge and Boston. I kayaked down the Charles River, ate dinner on the 52nd floor of the Prudential tower overlooking Boston, explored Martha’s Vineyard (Obama’s vacation spot), watched a Red Sox game at Fenway, and enjoyed a concert on a boat at the Boston Harbor. There was not a second that went by that was not enjoyable. MIT is a place of passion and innovation and home to people with amazing ideas and kind hearts. I could not have asked to spend my summer any other way. Biomedical research is what I plan to pursue in my future, and this summer experience with MSRP validated my love for the research field and motivated me to never stop asking questions.