Pro Tips and Proteasomes

Over the past seven weeks, we have heard from some of the most amazing professors at Duke. We have not only heard about their groundbreaking research, but also about their personal lives and their path to success. Among all those great stories, Dr. Gustavo Silva’s stuck out to me the most.

Dr. Silva is a very young professor at Duke. He was born and studied biology, both as an undergraduate and in graduate school, in Brazil. He only moved to the United States for his post-doctorate. I was intrigued by Dr. Silva’s accent, youth, and his research.

Dr. Silva studies the ubiquitin proteasome system which marks specific proteins for degradation within the cell. He started his presentation by explaining how oxidative stress can cause molecular damage, which leads to a decline in physiology and the onset of disease, something I have become quite familiar with while studying Parkinson’s these last few weeks.

He has found that ubiquitination and proteasomes are sensitive to too much cellular stress. Dr. Silva has also discovered that there are many different ubiquitin chains that are used to signal proteins for several different alterations, not only cell death. For example, ubiquitination and proteasomes are used to modify ribosomes where tRNA binds, and thus are vital for translation.

One of the most important lessons that Dr. Silva taught us had nothing to do with biology at all. He taught us to dream big and to follow our hearts. He believed that we could do anything we wanted if we put our minds to it. He also encouraged us to look around us at all the amazing peers, professors, and resources we have at Duke. He believes that building a strong support system and large community will help enable us in the future and will inspire us to be the best we can be. Lastly, he told us to make sure we have good mentors who have our best interests at heart.

I am thankful to the BSURF program for providing so many amazing speakers. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about their research, their past, their failures, and their success.

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