RNA Featured Researcher – Karen Montoya, Ph.D. Candidate, Chemistry


Karen Montoya, Ph.D. Candidate
Chemistry, College of LSA
Faculty: Nils G. Walter

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/karen-montoyaa

I am interested in chemistry at the interface with biology and medicine. I have always had an interest in understanding the pathology of a disease. Through my research, I am working on a diagnostic tool that detects microRNA (miRNAs) molecular profiles to help better understand human health and predict the likelihood of human disease.

  • How does RNA relate to your research interests, and why?
    MiRNAs are the center of my research. I am working on determining expression levels of a panel of miRNAs given their potential as biomarkers. They show altered expression in diseases and are present and highly stable in biofluids.
  • Is there a layman image that could illustrate your research?

Workflow for characterizing miRNA expression profile

  • How did you become interested in this topic?
    I can pin this directly to the first time I learned about RNA interference. It was fascinating to learn how these small RNA molecules had this huge job and have therapeutic applications.
  • Who/what brought you to science?
    There is a “who” and “what”. I was definitely influenced by the live action and animated film Osmosis Jones. After that, all I wanted to do was shrink down into a white blood cell and fight off viruses. Now the person that brought me to science has to be my dad. He showed me chemistry through cooking.
  • What brought you to the University of Michigan?
    It is a great research institution plus it let me experience all seasons. I miss SoCal, but seeing the transition from winter to spring in Michigan is amazing!
  • What’s your favorite hobby?
    My new favorite hobby is visiting new parks with my dog.


Related news article: “A scientist who “shrunk” down to explore a cell”

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