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Meet Dana Strandjord

PROGRAM Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology, and Genetics
ADVISOR Professor James Ervasti

What are your research interests? I am interested in protein folding and stability and how small changes in the genome can lead to changes in the folding of proteins. I have also recently become interested in gene expression and all the factors that regulate that expression. It seems there are many biological answers buried in gene expression dynamics. 

What are you working on right now? Right now I am characterizing a subset of patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Most patients with DMD do not make the protein dystrophin; but the subset of patients that I am studying still make dystrophin, just with one mistake in the protein. I am using biochemical, cellular, and animal model approaches to determine how these small mistakes are disrupting the function of the dystrophin protein.

Why did you choose to study at the U of M? I started looking at the U of M as a place for my graduate career firstly because it is a great University where science research is a top priority. But I decided to study here because of the people. There is a strong unity amongst the graduate students and faculty here that I did not see at other institutions. Those relationships have been critical for my development as a scientist.

What are your plans once you finish your program? Once I finish my graduate program, I would like to find a post-doc position that is half research and half teaching. Teaching is something that I really enjoy and eventually I would like to be a professor at a small college where teaching is the focus. 

(Just for fun) if you could meet any scientist/researcher past or present, who would it be and what would you want to know? This is probably cheesy, but I would really like to meet Gregor Mendel. I would ask him where he found the patience to grow pea plants for such a long time. I like Gregor because of his meticulous counting of phenotypes and accurate calculations of inheritance before anyone knew about DNA or chromosomes. He was not well recognized during his lifetime, so I would also want to tell him that he got it right, and became the “father of genetics”!