Hello! My name is Jason Mark Soriano and I am a rising junior at the University of California, Berkeley (Go Bears!). I am majoring in Molecular Environmental Biology with a concentration in Environment and Human Health. I first became curious about environmental health after completing a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program last summer at the University of Georgia where I conducted R statistical analyses on environmental factors affecting the abundance of kissing bugs – the vectors of Chagas Disease in Central Panama. That experience brought me all the way across the country to explore environmental health in a new setting, that is, in a renowned biomedical research lab. While I am still exploring my post-graduation options, this summer experience has definitely helped me throughout the decision-making process by not only giving me a great amount of skills and knowledge regarding proteomics and mass spectrometry, but also an insight into the life of a graduate student and a researcher.
What is your summer research project?
This summer, I am grateful to have been given the chance to conduct research in Dr. Ian Blair’s laboratory as a STEER program participant with the help of PhD candidate Kevin Gillepsie. Using analytical chemistry and molecular biology techniques, I explored potential post-translational modifications that crocidolite asbestos may have on HMGB1, an important protein involved in the regulation of DNA-dependent processes and cellular danger signaling. We treated A549 cell lines as a lung cancer model in light of asbestos’ ability to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other pleural diseases.
What are the implications of your research?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals used in building materials that poses a considerable environmental health threat to vulnerable and susceptible populations given its carcinogenic effects upon inhalation. Research has shown that asbestos exposure can lead to a number of pleural diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, etc. Therefore, the implications of this research are to utilize high-resolution mass spectrometry and molecular biology tools to conduct omics research emphasizing early detection biomarkers of asbestos exposure, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
What new skills have you gained through your research?
My research experience has allowed me to perform a wide variety of commonly practiced molecular biology techniques. These techniques include passaging/splitting cell lines, Western Blot, Coomassie Blue Staining, and protein extraction. My research has also given me a chance to strengthen my ability in interpreting protein mass spectrometry data, such as analyzing mass spectra and chromatograms.