My PhD work in Siavash Kurdistani's Lab at UCLA was focused on uncovering the evolutionary origins of the eukaryotic epigenetic control machinery. This machinery, the core component of which is the histones, is unique to eukaryotes and critical for multicellular life. My teammates and I made the surprising and groundbreaking discovery that the histone H3 is an oxidoreductase enzyme. This function is critical for eukaryotic cells and raises the unprecedented and profound notion that histones may have first evolved to enable the eukaryotic ancestors to adapt to oxygenated life before being incorporated as a way to compact DNA or regulate gene expression.
As a postdoc in Wendell Lim's lab at UCSF, I am expanding on my interests in epigenetics by developing a synthetic biology framework for engineering epigenetic and cell differentiation control systems in mammalian cells, with particular emphasis on CAR T cells. My goal is to develop a toolbox of synthetic cell circuits incorporating epigenetic regulation that will enable programmable differentiation of T cells into multiple subtypes with complementary therapeutic phenotypes.