Health Sciences Introduction – Julia Wu


Hi everyone! My name is Julia Wu and I am so excited to participate in the Health Sciences Research Fellowship this summer! I am a rising junior majoring in Anthropology and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry and a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine on the pre-medicine track. I am from Acton, MA, which is roughly 25 miles west of Boston. Recently, I went on a brigade with Global Medical Brigades to Honduras, where I volunteered and shadowed healthcare professionals at a medical clinic! I came to Pitt knowing that I wanted to pursue biomedical and scientific research, so I am grateful to be able to do just that through the Health Sciences Research Fellowship.


This summer, I will be researching with the Yanowitz Lab under the guidance of my research mentor, Dr. Judith Yanowitz. I am studying a chromatin-associated factor, C44C10.5, which is thought to affect meiotic chromosome crossover formation and play a role in meiosis and reproduction in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans

I began my studies of this gene C44C10.5 in Fall 2021 by experimenting with a partial deletion of C44C10.5. I created a double mutant strain with C44C10.5 and him-5, a gene with known mild defects in crossover formation, to test redundancy in crossover formation. I have also analyzed C44C10.5 mutant DAPI-stained nuclei at both 20℃ (normal growth temperature) and 25℃ (higher growth temperature known to act as a heat stressor). I noticed that the mutant strains express little to no overt effects; however, the strains appear to grow slower and produce less offspring compared to wild-type strains, and there are indications of crossover formation errors at 25℃. 

So, for my project, I will continue my studies of C44C10.5; specifically, I will experiment with the fully deleted C44C10.5 gene from the C. elegans genome. I will use CRISPR, a technique used to edit genomes and make stable mutant strains, to fully knock out C44C10.5 in wild-type C. elegans and make a new mutant strain (Figure 1). Next, I will screen for any changes in C. elegans growth and oocyte development during reproduction. To do this, I will perform recombination frequency tests by crossing two genes, dpy and unc, with C44C10.5 to determine if C44C10.5 alters dpy;unc recombination frequencies. I will also perform experiments to determine which step in meiosis C44C10.5 functions by making double mutant strains with him-5 and other mutations with defects in differing stages of meiosis. In concurrence with these experiments, I will perform a brood analysis test, which characterizes the number of eggs laid and viable offspring, for wild-type and mutant strains, to determine if the C44C10.5 mutation has a negative effect on growth rate and offspring number, and if it is a maternal or zygotic defect.

Figure 1 Screenshot of proposed CRISPR line from SnapGene.

With this research project, I hope to uncover how C44C10.5 contributes to crossover formation and why it is essential for proper C. elegans growth. As a model organism, C. elegans can provide insight into this process in other organisms, including humans, since the process of meiosis is highly conserved across sexually reproducing species. Ultimately, we hope be able to better understand this biological process and use this information to decrease the rate of miscarriages and ensure the birth of healthy babies.


Currently, I plan to attend medical school as I have always been interested in medicine and working in healthcare. However, I also love research, and I hope to incorporate both professional goals into my future career. I believe the Health Sciences Research Fellowship will help me pursue these goals because I will be a part of a community of engaging, hard-working individuals who also have a passion in the health sciences. I am excited to further my research and bring you on this journey with me!

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