Brian Carrick, an IPiB graduate student, will be defending his Ph.D. research on July 28, 2023.
Using the roundworm C. elegans as a model organism, Carrick studies how some RNA-binding proteins called PUF proteins help to determine the fate of stem cells. There are two primary paths for stem cells: either they can undergo a process known as “self-renewal” and make more stem cells or they can differentiate into another specific kind of cell, such as a liver cell or a sperm cell. Carrick says, “In the germline of C. elegans, there are only 3 options: stay a stem cell, become a sperm cell, or become an oocyte. PUF proteins are important for making more stem cells and for stem cell differentiation.”
Carrick’s research aims to reveal more about how PUF proteins and additional partner proteins work together to control stem cell fate.
“My project has been asking, when RNA binding proteins fit together, what happens to the RNA? And what happens when you eliminate those interactions? These questions go beyond C. elegans. Some of these proteins are conserved across humans and all eukaryotes and have been implicated in neurological diseases, stem cell diseases, and cancers,” explains Carrick.
Carrick joined the IPiB program in part because of the interdisciplinary research opportunities that would allow him to explore questions from both biochemical and microbiological angles. Just as big of a draw, however, were his peers. “My work could have fit in with a number of programs,” says Carrick. “But I just really liked the people in IPiB. When I was interviewing for graduate programs, this was my favorite one because of the people.”
After graduating, Carrick plans to continue researching PUF proteins as a postdoctoral fellow in the United Kingdom. He hopes to take a biochemical approach to exploring the interactions among PUF proteins and other proteins.
To learn more about Carrick’s research, attend his Ph.D. defense, “Unraveling RNA Control During Development,” on Friday, July 28, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. CT in Room 1211 of the Hector F. DeLuca Biomedical Sciences Building.