My name is Karen Balcazar and I am working towards receiving a BS in Biochemistry from CSU Fullerton. I am currently conducting research in Dr. Bridges' laboratory working on a project focused on characterizing the structural dynamics of a protein called Atrophin-1. We are characterizing this protein with varying lengths of its polyQ tail (lengths that are pathological and non-pathological: 19, 38, 57, 76 Q’s) using physical and biochemical techniques. The polyQ tail/trinucleotide repeat (CAG/CAA) causes a rare neurodegenerative disease called Dentatorubral-pallidoluysian Atrophy (DRPLA). The polyQ tail is pathological once the length reaches 48-88 glutamine residues. Using a variety of techniques, we strive to characterize a truncated version of the protein to elucidate its pathological mechanism.

My research interests have always been centered around understanding the relationship between a protein’s structure and function and how disrupting this relationship promotes the development of disease, particularly involving amyloidogenic and metabolic disorders. To this end, I plan on pursuing Ph.D. programs in the fields of Biochemistry and Biophysics after I graduate in the spring of 2014.