Summer researchers report back: Yewon Lee ’19 forges ahead with protein mutation research


Q: Where did you do research this summer?

A: I was here at Mount Holyoke in Professor McMenimen’s lab.


Q: What was your project?

A: I was assigned a new project with my lab partner during the spring semester, but my lab partner had another internship so she wasn’t here for the summer, so I was alone in the lab. I created a TAG point mutation in the n-terminus region using PCR of a small heat shock protein, specifically HSP27. Traditionally, the translational machinery would stop translation at the stop codon, and produce a truncated version of the protein. In my research, I transformed an orthogonal translational machinery and with the addition of unnatural amino acids (UAA), we are hoping to see the machinery charge the UAA at the stop codon, and continue translating to produce a full length protein.  

  Photo by Ayla Safran ’18    Yewon Lee ’19 did research on campus over the summer. 

Photo by Ayla Safran ’18

Yewon Lee ’19 did research on campus over the summer. 

       Q: What was the goal?

A: The HSP27 is a chaperone protein in the human body. Chaperone proteins help unfold or correctly fold misfolded proteins. When those misfolded proteins aggregate, they can lead to different neurodegenerative diseases. By creating this mutation and creating the full length protein, we want to eventually see how it interacts with the substrates because that’s how it folds back the misfolded proteins properly.

     With the full length protein, we will examine how it interacts with the substrate — hopefully resulting in less aggregation


Q: How did you get involved in this?

A: I’m actually the president of biochem and chem club. When I joined as a member the fall semester of my sophomore year, they had a cool panel where different professors spoke about their ongoing research on campus. I first heard about Professor McMenimen’s research through the class CHEM 199, where we got to interview professors in the chemistry department and learn about their research.

Q: Do you have any advice for students who want to get involved in research?

A: I would say, even if you haven’t decided if you are going to be a biochemistry or chemistry major but you want to get involved in labs, come to biochemistry and chemistry club meetings. Our meetings are run by professors and students so it’s a great chance to ask lots of questions and interact with professors outside of class. 


Q: Anything you would like to add?

A: Liberal arts colleges, and especially MHC because we only have undergraduates, provide a great opportunity to get involved. As soon as you’re on campus, start looking for labs, get involved, because that leads to better internships and better jobs.

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