During her postdoctoral training at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research/MIT, Assistant Professor of Biology Cintia Hongay became fascinated by a particular enzyme and its role in cell fate decisions in yeast.
Two years ago, Hongay was awarded a research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate this enzyme in fruit flies and zebrafish.
Her research centers around the effects of this RNA-modifying enzyme in development, which Hongay showed to be essential for the life cycle in fruit flies, and how this enzyme controls the commitment to different cell differentiation paths. Hongay has studied this gene in yeast, fruit flies and zebrafish as groundwork to understanding its function in humans.
“It is a very powerful enzyme for development, and it's present in humans and mice and other organisms,” she says.
Clarkson Honors student Kiara Cruickshank '19, Daniel Austin '18 and Zoila Urena '17 spent last summer working with Prof. Cintia Hongay in the lab, learning about Drosophila (fruit fly) husbandry and performing basic genetics research, including phenotype analyses and gene expression. SUNY Potsdam student Nnaebuka Ononye '18, a McNair Scholar at Clarkson, worked on a separate project analyzing the antibacterial properties of a newly developed utensil cleaner.
Students in the Lab
Her NIH grant also includes a Research Diversity Supplement, which enables Hongay to support underrepresented students in her lab. Clarkson’s CUPO (Community of Underrepresented Professional Opportunities) also provided additional funding for student researchers.
“It is very important for academia to have more women and minorities represented,” she says. “Science should reflect society, and different perspectives and points of view strengthen collaboration and move science forward.”
“I enjoy having students in my lab. I get to know them, and they get to know me, not as professor giving a lecture, but as a scientist in action.”