The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has announced the 2023-24 winners of the Louis and Elsa Thomsen Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship. This year’s recipients include Ashley Becker (Jackson Lab, Department of Agronomy), Morgan Farmer (Drake Lab, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology), and Saeed Roschdi (Butcher Lab, Department of Biochemistry).
The year-long fellowship was established in 1999 by the estate of Elsa Thomsen to support CALS graduate students who demonstrate excellence in research.
Roschdi, a graduate student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), explores the structure and function of repeating sequences of RNA known as pUGs (poly-uridine-guanosine sequences). In a paper published last year, Roschdi,Butcher, and collaborators revealed a unique folding pattern formed by pUG RNA sequences. Using roundworms as a model organism, they confirmed that, when properly folded, pUGs function as part of a “silencing pathway” which turns off certain genes, preventing those genes from being expressed.
Now, with fellowship funding, Roschdi will spend his final year of graduate school diving deeper into the roles pUGs play in roundworms, as well as other species – including humans. “What’s interesting about these repeats,” says Roschdi, “is that they’re highly abundant in humans but we don’t fully understand their roles. Originally, many scientists thought that they weren’t structured at all because it’s such a simple repeat. Now, we’ve been able to solve the structure and we know that it is conserved across many species, which makes us think even though we don’t know exactly what it’s doing, more information will lead to important connections about their function.”
Roschdi hopes his research will offer new insights into additional roles pUGs may serve in humans. “In the past year our paper was released and there has been more understanding about the role this structure plays in regulation,” says Roschdi. “And we think there will be more. With support from this fellowship in this last year, I’ll be able to get a better understanding of how this system works.”
Congratulations to Saeed and all of this year’s CALS Distinguished Graduate Fellowship Award recipients!