Skip to main content

Katya Marchetti PictureI AM A RESEARCHER!

Katya Marchetti

Major: Neurobiology

College: Sixth College

Year at UC San Diego: 3rd year, graduating early in June 2022

URH Programs: URS - Eureka! (Summer 2021), TRELS

Other Experiences: Biology Undergraduate and Master's Mentorship Program (BUMMP), Challenger Research Journal Committee (CRJC)

What are you researching?
I currently research Erythroblast Transformation Specific (ETS) genes, a family of transcription factors that may play a role in the development of the congenital heart disease Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). My specific project focuses on investigating ETS genes for their involvement with cell fate determination and possible interactions with other transcription factors and protein coding genes. Another interesting aspect of my research is finding a way to quantify myofibril organization and disorganization in order to indirectly measure contractile abnormalities and structural remodeling that is associated with HLHS.

This research is meaningful because it will help personalize treatment options for patients and their families with HLHS. It is possible that specific ETS mutations could be added to a standard prenatal genetic screening to better advise and prepare patients who have a family history of this disorder. Additionally, having a better understanding of the underlying genetic mechanism of pathology for HLHS will improve the knowledge base for future researchers trying to understand cardiac development and various other congenital heart diseases.

Why and how did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?
I have wanted to be a scientist for as long as I could remember, so choosing to attend UCSD was a clear choice. I got involved in research at UCSD in my first year, fall 2019. I volunteered at a few labs before COVID hit in March 2020. When remote learning began, I took full advantage of the online learning environment and took as many classes as possible, so I could graduate early and focus on keeping my GPA up. Later in 2020, limited in person classes resumed and I began applying for jobs and internships through the AIP. And it took quite a while to find a lab. Most labs were shut down during COVID. In the beginning of 2021 I was hired as an intern at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

What are your future plans/goals?
I am proud to announce that I will be entering a PhD at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in the Bodmer - Ocorr lab continuing the research I started as an undergrad. I hope to pursue a career in research, and am excited to get started on this journey.

Anything else you want to share?
My work was acknowledged through a 2021 National Diversity in Stem (NDiSTEM) undergraduate poster presentation award in medicine at the SACNAS conference in October, where I also received a National Institute of General Medical Sciences Grant (NIGMS R13) sponsorship to attend and present. In November, I was recognized at the 2021 ABRCMS conference where I won an undergraduate poster presentation award in developmental biology. At these conferences I presented my findings on myofibrillar structure and disorganization and received feedback from high-level scientists on possible improvements and other aspects of the project to explore.

I highly encourage other undergraduate scientists to get involved in these opportunities, as it is a great way to widen your scope of interests, as well as meet new friends. I believe that the connections I have made at these conferences and summer research programs will be lifelong friends and potential future research collaborators.