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Student Profile in Nuclear Receptor Biology and Neurotrauma

Lexus Tatge

Cell & Molecular Biology Graduate Program

Mentor: Peter Douglas, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Biochemistry
Undergraduate Institution: Hamline University
Hometown: Faribault, MN

Awards/Fellowships: Graduate: NIGMS T-32 Pharmacological sciences Grant; NIGMS F-31 NRSA Fellowship; Glenn Foundation Diversity Scholarship, Undergraduate: Nancy B. Johnson Scholarship for Woman in STEM; Ron Mitsch Chemistry Scholarship; Carol Beggs Chemistry Scholarship; Lund Science Speech Competition Winner 

Lexus Tatge

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

Looking back, I think I have always been tangentially interested in science/research. Growing up I wanted to be chef, an author, and a coach. I had a queasy (not easy) bake oven and would make every concoction I could think of. I would write short stories or rewrite fairytales every chance I got in any notebook I could find. And every year that I played hockey (until sophomore year of college), I would stay late and volunteer coach the youth team underneath me starting at the age of 8. Once I found out I was going to go to Hamline to play hockey, I even applied there with the interest of majoring in creative writing with a minor in coaching. Throughout all of this, I still had taken every science class available to me in high school because I began to see the parallels between my passions and a field of study. Once I got to college, I quickly changed my major to biochemistry and the summer after my first year I did summer research in a biophysics lab on campus. I did two more summers of research, another one at Hamline, and one at the Texas Medical Center before deciding that a Ph.D. was going to help me get to a place in my future where I can make something out of nothing (like in cooking), write as much as I want, and help those around me find success in their passions as well (through coaching). So, seeing what my PI gets to do every day is the dream job, and a career path I will follow as well.

Please describe your research.

Ten to twenty percent of FDA approved drugs target nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs), yet half of the NHRs do not have a defined endogenous ligand. The goal of my thesis work is to elucidate the nucleocytoplasmic dynamics of an important NHR, NHR-49(HNF4), and introduce a new potential mechanism of protein and genetic regulation.

What do you think makes the Cell & Molecular Biology Program one of the top in the country?

There are many reasons why I think CMB is top in the country for graduate programs. We have mentors that are at the top of their fields and who have been award Noble Prizes. We have a diverse set of research from professors and students in the program so that during WIPs or at our symposium we are always learning something new. And lastly, the professors are eager to help and collaborate when your own lab does not have the expertise or tools to do so.

What do you love about the Cell & Molecular Biology Program?

I love the flexibility of courses you can take during your first year. Courses from other programs count toward your electives which was great for someone like me who loves biophysics but doesn't necessary want a degree in it. I also love that there are no exams in the CMB courses. I do not take exams well, so being able to put my best foot forward in graduate course work was refreshing. CMB also offers a well-thought-out grant writing course that prepares you for your qualification exam and you end that course with a thorough grant that could be submitted for an F30/F31 (what I did). All in all, the professors put a lot of thought and love into the betterment of the students which allows you to flourish if you chose this program.

– Lexus Tatge

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