Jessica Chan

Exploring the Helicase Domain of Dicer

My primary work revolves around a eukaryotic pathway known as RNA interference (RNAi) where small RNA molecules regulate gene expression. As the main enzyme responsible for generating these small RNAs, Dicer measures and cleaves a diverse population of RNA molecules into mature fragments primed to control genes. The two main substrates are hairpin RNAswhich are cut into microRNAs (miRNAs)and long duplex RNAswhich are cut into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Although many studies have analyzed Dicers ability to cleave RNA, there are still many unanswered questions about how Dicer selects its RNA substrates, which can lead to large changes into which genes are eventually regulated. Dicer is a large protein composed of many distinct parts. One elusive part of the protein is the helicase domain, which is involved in the processing of specific RNA substrates. My research aims to examine how the Dicers helicase domain recognizes the RNA substrates to influence cleavage, using a combination of biochemical and structural techniques.

Message to Sponsor

I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to conduct my research full-time over the summer! The SURF/Rose Hills fellowship allows me to go above and beyond what I could ever do in one semester. The skills I learn will help me become a better critical thinker and scientist, and I will carry them with me well beyond the summer. I would like to take this this time to officially thank the enormous support of the Rose Hills Foundation, my mentor Dr. Doudna, and the rest of the Doudna lab.
  • Major: Integrative Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Foundation
  • Mentor: Jennifer Doudna, Molecular and Cell Biology