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Natalie Thompson


Background
I graduated with a B.A. in chemical engineering and a minor in computer science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in May 2018. My Major Qualifying Project (MQP) was on the recovery of a substrate through membrane filtration using electrophoresis which taught me valuable problem-solving skills. I initially got interested in chemical engineering at a young age. I always loved solving puzzles and riddles and when combined with my tendency to mix together and experiment with miscellaneous substances in the house, ChE was a natural choice. 

My passion in life is helping people, so the goal I've been working towards since deciding on ChE at the age of 9 is working in pharmaceuticals and developing or improving processes that create medicine. I joined CurtisLab in the summer of 2018 as a PhD student because I am fascinated with the idea of genetically modifying plants, insects, or viruses to serve a optimize a specific trait. It represents a puzzle to solve, but this time with molecular biology!

Here's one of my favorite puzzles:
There are 9 people on an island. 8 of them have identical weights, while the 9th is either slightly heavier or slightly lighter. There is no scale on the island, but there is a see-saw. The problem is, this see-saw is particularly old and can only be used twice before breaking. How can you determine which person is the anomaly? 

Project
My work is primarily on investigating viral movement in plants. I am creating transgenic plants that use luciferase as a reporter gene when under the presence of the pepper golden mosaic virus. These plants will be able to be used to assess viral movement through a luciferase assay taken at different time points. Additionally, I am furthering the work on a viral 'kill switch'. This viral suppression technology uses siRNA to target and silence viral infections.