Molecular/Cell/Developmental Biology - Deanna Belsky

  • Admitted to:

    • Rockefeller University
    • Harvard
    • Yale
    • Princeton
    • Johns Hopkins
    • Cornell
    • UC Berkeley

    Enrolled in:

    Rockefeller University, Molecular/Cell/Developmental Biology program with a full tuition scholarship and stipend.

    Statement of Academic Purpose

    From childhood chemistry kits and bug dissections under the microscope to performing techniques of PCR and cloning, I always knew I had a passion for science, but it was an experience while conducting research in a laboratory this last summer that finalized my decision to attend graduate school. It was 4:00 a.m. in my Princeton internship laboratory where I experienced my biggest Eureka! moment. I was collecting the results of countless experiments that led to this moment at the fluorescent microscope. I meticulously and excitedly prepared the slides in order to observe the results of the experiments I had been conducting for several weeks. The experiments were designed to determine if there was a direct interaction between an RAS protein and the MAPK pathway, and the fluorescent intensities would tell all. That morning, not only did I know that the RAS protein did not have direct contact with the MAPK pathway as the conventional pathway portrayed, but I knew that I had discovered this myself. I had discovered it; I did the experiments, I interpreted the results, and I realized I could advance knowledge in the field of biology. Laboratory research has always appeared to match my intellectual interests perfectly; the end result of gaining knowledge is captivating. I am fascinated by the journey of performing experiments, critically thinking to solve the enigma of what went wrong and correcting it, and delving deeper with a new question once the last one was answered. Research epitomizes what I find most enjoyable and what I would most like to pursue as a profession. My ideal profession includes the ability to continually learn and utilize new information, and research allows for exactly that.

    I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in a number of different research projects over the last few years. I was first exposed to research my freshman year of college by taking on an independent project concerning the extraction of metals from acid mine drainage water samples by an Amaranthus plant species under the supervision of Dr. Anne Kondo. The following year, I conducted research using the plant pathogenic fungus, Rhizoctonia solani, examining viral-like particles (dsRNA) that were unique to disparate isolates of the fungus, with the goal of creating a biosensor to detect bioagents with Dr. Narayanaswamy Bharathan. In the summer after my junior year, I participated in the Princeton University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Molecular and Quantitative and Computational Biology working with Dr. James Broach, where I requested to work on two separate projects since one project did not suffice for the amount of time I wanted to spend in the laboratory. For one of the projects, I focused on testing the nuclear localization of the transcription factors MSN2 and MSN4 in response to sources of stress, such as nutrient deprivation or limitation, osmotic irregularities, and oxidative damage studied in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. For the other project, I tested the conventional method of RAS protein’s direct interaction with the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway to determine its accuracy. After these research experiences, I found that my interests lay in the field of molecular biology, so I started my senior biochemistry research project in a laboratory involved in studying circadian and ultradian rhythms in Paramecium tetraurelia with Dr. Robert Hinrichsen. My project focuses on using RNA interference to determine the function of genes involved in the regulation of calcium flux in the calcium storage unit. For more information about any of these projects, see attached CV.

    I believe that my academic experiences have aided in my preparation for a graduate degree so that I can provide something different to Rockefeller University. My academic background of taking advanced graduate level classes such as Animal Morphogenesis and Advanced Molecular Genetics along with Immunology and Biology of the Cell that I plan to take in the Spring term proves that I can succeed in graduate level courses. Besides my scientific background, I am a student in the Robert E. Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which consists of a unique program of liberal studies courses that encourage critical thinking and discussion in small classroom settings. This program has helped me advance my critical thinking skills in scientific endeavors and has taught me to continuously ask questions to gain knowledge. In addition, I have a proficient Chinese language background that will aid me in reaching my goal of international collaborative efforts in science.

    I am particularly interested in graduate studies in the molecular mechanisms involved in embryogenesis and morphogenesis, the development and function of stem cells, and chromosomal behavior in regard to these biological processes. I find that the types of research interests I have are in correspondence with several research faculty members at Rockefeller University, including Dr. Ali H. Brivanlou, Dr. Elaine Fuchs, and Dr. Michael P. Rout. All of these faculty members have research projects that involve the molecular mechanisms of developmental processes. Each faculty member, although performing research in the subject of Developmental Biology, focuses on different areas which will allow for me to find a research project that best matches my academic interests. I am greatly intrigued by Dr. Brivanlou’s work of discovering neural induction mechanisms involved in embryonic cells, Dr. Fuchs’s work of skin stem cell regeneration, and Dr. Rout’s research of nuclear pore complexes that when mutated cause developmental abnormalities. Rockefeller University would provide me with a great opportunity since its faculty research matches so well with my academic interests.

    A future career goal of mine is to work in conjugation with developing countries in the biosciences to enhance knowledge in the scientific field. Since my freshman year of college, I have taken Chinese language classes and have travelled abroad for a language program at the Southwest University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China. These classes have made it possible for me to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies along with my Biochemistry bachelor’s degree. Also, for next semester, I have set up an independent study course to learn scientific terminology in Chinese. China is a major developing country contributing to the sciences, in both their development of leading scientific institutions and with the number of students they provide to American universities. China will continue to grow, especially in the field that I am interested in, which is evident from the Beijing Genomics Institute’s advanced twenty-year bioscience plan for the stem cell and genetic engineering industry. I believe science is a collaborative subject that requires knowledge and resources from what should be an international level. I consider myself a useful student, not only for the scientific background I can bring to Rockefeller University, but also for my proficiency in the Chinese language that I can use later on to enhance international collaborations in science.

    Upon completing the graduate program, I look forward to continuing my education through a post-doctoral fellowship, after which I plan to conduct research at an institute of advanced studies involved in medical and therapeutic treatments of developmental abnormalities. Eventually, I would like to obtain a position in academia in order to advance applications as a preventative measure to stop abnormal differentiation of embryonic stem cells. Along the way, I would also deeply encourage international collaborative efforts to work on scientific issues in today’s society. I may complete this through obtaining one of the above mentioned positions directly in China, or collaborating with Chinese-speaking individuals in America to further scientific advancements. Rockefeller University would serve as a vital aid in obtaining knowledge in my intended field.

    Throughout my various experiences as an undergraduate research assistant, I have learned that performing research is where I find the most reward, and that a Ph.D. degree matches best with my interests of accomplishing my future goals. Consistently through all my research experiences, I have worked many hours, sometimes working well into the night, if not sleeping in the laboratory. While other classmates and research assistants could not understand my dedication to these projects, I knew it was due to my desire to find the answer to the questions posed to me. I realize that as a graduate student, I will be expected to spend countless hours in the laboratory performing research; however, I also realize that research is my passion. I sincerely believe my determination and tenacity in the pursuit of knowledge along with my other qualifications can benefit the graduate program at Rockefeller University.