Review of the 2013 MCDB Retreat

October 28, 2013

Guest post by Jessica Vera

This year’s MCDB retreat (my third as a grad student in the department) was held in Vail, CO. Before getting into the science of it all, I just need to say that we were blessed with some spectacular weather and beautiful fall mountain scenery. Everything went off without a hitch and a thanks must be given to Robin Dowell and Gia Voeltz as well as Eric Hedl (IT) and Kathy Lozier(Admin) for their efforts in organizing the retreat. This being my third retreat, and quite possibly my last, I found myself getting nostalgic and thinking of previous retreat experiences. I was a first year when I first attended my first MCDB retreat, and as such little was required of me other than to attend the talks and check out some posters. My first retreat was also Robin’s first retreat and it was there that I distinctly remember meeting her for the first time. Little did I know that some six months later I would be joining her lab.

Each lab in the department is allotted a 20 minute talk during the retreat. I would like to elaborate on two such talks. First, Eric Davis of the Shen lab gave a talk entitled ‘Genome-wide analysis of gene-trap insertions and essential genes in human cells’. This was a continuation of work presented in his MMB talk just one week prior. What I like about his project is that he has utilized very new techniques to address lingering questions in the field of GPI-anchored protein trafficking. He has been mutagenizing a human haploid lymphoblast cell line via gene-trap insertion and then putting these cells under various selective conditions. He then performs next-gen sequencing to locate gene-trap insertion sites and identify genes involved in mediating the selected phenotype. At the retreat he specifically focused on his analytical methods for finding statistically significant hits in his experiments. I know firsthand how challenging certain aspects of his project can be and I am impressed with the quality of his work and with how he presented it to the department at large.

Second, I was happy to have caught James Orth’s talk ‘Follow the SINE: selective inhibitors of nuclear export as anti-cancer agents’. Being that James is a new assistant research professor in the department, I confess having known little about his research until the retreat. He is making use of the cell cycle biosensor system named FUCCI which allows for single cell assignment and monitoring of cell cycle progression via fluorescence microscopy. This system provides a good basis for exploring the effects of anti-cancer drugs. I predict this system may also prove useful to many other MCDB research labs!

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