Gerd Schweinitz

Where did you transfer from?

I went to school in Chile at the Arturo Prat Naval Academy.

Why did you want to come to the University?

When I was in Chile serving in the Navy, I had to decide whether to sign a new 7-year contract and train become a pilot or retire and follow a different path. I decided to move on with my life. I have always been interested in biology and I wanted to come study in the United States. I chose the University of Minnesota because they had a great international exchange program. I also liked the idea of living in a large city in the Midwest.

What are you researching?

I am studying the most frequently mutated gene in human cancer—p53. I will be investigating some of the role of p53 in cancer and aging. In cancer, the p53 loss of function mutation causes cells to divide uncontrollably, and in aging, it is thought to cause cells to undergo apoptosis or become senescent, which means that they no longer divide. It is thought that p53 regulates different regions of the genome that do not code for genes (junk DNA). Recently, it has been discovered that these non-genic regions are actually functional, playing a role in controlling and regulating other genes and working as switch mechanisms. I will be helping in characterizing these genomic elements in respect to the p53 signaling pathway.

What have you gotten out of this experience?

It has been a great experience so far. I have benefited greatly, improving my ability to organize, think critically, and pay attention to details. I have learned many new techniques while helping the head researchers gather the data that they need. This research opportunity has been very valuable to me.

What are your interests outside of school?

Photography, skiing, and spending time with my family.

Do you participate in any extracurricular activities?

I play intramural soccer and volunteer as a surgery observer at the Fairview Hospital.

What are you plans for the future?

I graduate in May, and I am planning to go to medical school. (I hope to go to Mayo Clinic Medical School.)

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