One of the challenges of becoming an expert is to keep exploring broadly while being highly focused. Alyssa English, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Stephanie Moon’s lab, has found that by extensively studying basic science and rigorously applying the scientific method, she has acquired a strong foundation that allows her to tackle many different research areas. What she has learned from studying cellular processes in yeast will eventually serve her in disease research and keep the door open to many professional options. “My foundational training has prepared me very well to eventually pursue a career in industry,” she said.
In 2020, English joined the Moon lab to study the processes underlying severe neurological diseases. To answer fundamental biological questions, she now studies EIF2AK2, a gene that codes for protein kinase R (PKR), a major player in the integrated stress response which is a pathway that regulates transcription and translation in response to different stress signals such as pathogens. In particular, PKR responds to the presence of double-stranded RNA from viruses by inhibiting global translation. This prevents the cell from translating viral genes and, as a result, prevents further viral infection.