Examining gene mutations in brain development
Linda Su-Feher is a doctoral candidate in the biochemistry, molecular, cellular and developmental biology program, in the lab of Alex Nord. Her work focuses on developing high-throughput methods to characterize the biological impacts of DNA mutations identified in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Prior to graduate school, Su-Feher worked as a research technician and lab manager in the UC Davis Health System.
Describe your project or venture.
I am interested in the genetic underpinnings of human brain development, specifically in neurological disorders. My current projects examine how different mutations in the genome impact gene expression and development of the brain.
What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?
Genetic factors contribute a significant proportion of risk for developing specific neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. However, many clinical treatments involve drugs that target broad biological pathways, often with numerous unwanted side effects. Examining the genetic causes of these disorders will help generate precise therapeutic treatments and a better understanding of how a person’s genome influences the outcomes of a treatment.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Bringing together people of different scientific expertise, all with the same passion for translational science, to develop novel technologies is very exciting to me. I love the integration of different skillsets, the creative thinking required when collaborating on large-scale projects and the uncertainty of success.
Changing the lens from scientist to entrepreneur has helped me frame the path of my graduate research.
What was the most important thing you learned at the Entrepreneurship Academy?
The most valuable skill I learned (and am still learning) was how to rewrite my language for different audiences. Being able to articulate the impact of my scientific work to others has been incredibly helpful for my career growth and has enabled me to see my work from other perspectives.
What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?
New ideas and perspectives can come from the unlikeliest of places. I was surprised by the incredible diversity of mentors at the academy and how each mentor had a unique perspective about similar topics. Changing the lens from scientist to entrepreneur has helped me frame the path of my graduate research.
What is the most important thing you discovered in the Leaders for the Future program?
Simply interacting with everyone involved with Leaders for the Future was an incredibly important experience. The program helped connect me with people and mentors I never would have met in my usual academic circles. Learning about others’ career paths, personal struggles and goals was singularly motivating for my own work.
These experiences have helped remind me of the very reason I decided to pursue science as a career: to improve human health through discovery.
How will your experiences help you to change the world?
I have incorporated my experiences as a graduate student, an Entrepreneur Academy participant and Leaders for the Future fellow, to shape my career goals. As a graduate student, I can get lost in the details of my research and forget about the bigger picture. These experiences have helped remind me of the very reason I decided to pursue science as a career: to improve human health through discovery.
How will your experiences as a Leader for the Future and at the academy shape your professional future?
Before Leaders for the Future and the Entrepreneurship Academy, I had not thought too much about being an entrepreneur. I did not have a concrete marketable product (or so I thought), but these programs opened my eyes to the possibility that I actually could be an entrepreneur. Leaders for the Future also taught me that my scientific skills do not limit me to only research. The transferable skills I developed have opened doors to internships and career paths I had not considered before.
Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I am very grateful that I was able to participate in the Leaders for the Future program and the Entrepreneurship Academy. These programs not only helped me connect to a diversity of people across campus and beyond, they taught me to value my own skills and assets as a young professional.