Katie (Yu-Qian) Mao, Biochemistry

PhD Candidate
Student's Name: Katie (Yu-Qian) Mao
Country of Origin: Nanjing, Jiangsu, China
Pre-MSc/PhD Education: B.Sc. in Health and Disease, University of Toronto

Recent Research Experience:
I began my scientific journey of discovery in Dr. Derek van der Kooy’s lab during my first summer as an undergraduate student at UofT. Here, I learned to perform genetic mutation screens in the model organism C. elegans. We developed and trained these worms in associative and non-associative learning paradigms using olfactory and taste stimuli to look for learning and memory genes. C. elegans served as the perfect model for these complex processes since all of their 302 neurons had been identified and mapped. Behavioural phenotypes were then quantified under the light microscope and worms showing phenotypes of interest were further sequenced and analyzed for molecular mechanisms.

Current Research:
I currently work in Dr. Houry’s lab on the chaperone complex R2TP, which was first discovered and named by our lab in a large scale proteomic mapping of the yeast HSP90 network. This complex has since been identified to be highly conserved in many organisms. In humans, R2TP is proposed to facilitate the assembly and stability of critical molecular complexes such as the RNA polymerase II. Two of its subunits, Pontin and Reptin are AAA+ ATPases highly implicated in tumorigenesis through their growing list of cellular activities, including DNA damage repair, regulation of oncogenic transcription factors, promotion of cell proliferation and cell cycle progression. Whether R2TP is also involved in these functions remains to be investigated. Thus, my goal is to build both the protein and genetic interaction network of the R2TP complex. This will hopefully elucidate known and novel cellular functions of R2TP and how they contribute to its oncogenicity.

Why Faculty of Medicine:
Located in downtown Toronto, the Faculty of Medicine is really the hub of scientific research in Canada. With a network of research hospitals and nearby facilities, it has yielded many successful collaborations, and I’m sure more to come.

Future Education Plans and/or Career Goals:
To satisfy my constant curiosity and passion for healthcare, I wish to pursue a career in the industry doing research and development. I hope to put the expertise and skills I developed as a PhD student to use to both further scientific innovation and help those in need.

Contact Ambassador Katie (Yu-Qian) Mao