Monday, November 30, 2020

URSP Student Alex Marchesani Researches Glutathione and How it Functions Inside Bacteria

My research deals with a molecule called “glutathione” and how it functions inside of the bacteria Francisella tularensis. Francisella is an unusual bacterium because it causes disease by growing inside a cell, more like a virus than a standard bacterium. Another example of an intracellular pathogen is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause of tuberculosis. My mentor and I are studying glutathione in Francisella because it has been linked with the detoxification and the formation of DNA. My project aims to perform a literature review to compile all the current data about glutathione in Francisella to write a manuscript for my peers in the field. Review articles like this are important because they can introduce complex topics in a straightforward way and can reveal new avenues of research to explore. Unfortunately, these sorts of papers are not written often. Currently, we have just completed our first full draft and we are working on editing along with making figures and tables. We hope to submit the full paper for publication by the end of the semester.

This research has given me a unique experience. For one thing, I have discovered the reason why review papers are rarely written, they are very difficult to make! It turns out that compiling other people’s work provides a very different challenge that simply forming your own. For example, many of the papers I have read use a distinct naming format when talking about the genes of glutathione. This means that the same gene can be called two different things which is quite confusing! Another point of frustration has been the lack of data on certain aspects of my topic. Oftentimes, I find myself searching through dozens of papers to find a specific piece of information, only to conclude that no one has tested it yet. While this provides us with exciting new directions, the lack of knowledge we have can be irritating. However, it is not all doom and gloom. I have learned an enormous amount about my topic and ways to organize and present complex information. Before this project, I was not very adept at reading scientific journals. Now, I can quickly digest the information present and do not need to spend much time re-reading the same paragraph until I understand it. Overall, this work has been greatly beneficial to my career as a scientist and I am grateful to the OSCAR office, Dr. Karen Lee, and my mentor Dr. Monique van Hoek for this experience.