When you’re copying a sequence of numbers, it’s easy to get a couple mixed up. The body can do this, too – with greater consequences.
“Before the body can fix problems, it must know how to recognize them,” said Megan Westwood, Missouri State University chemistry graduate student. “Errors that don’t get caught by the body can end up causing mutations and cancers.”
Westwood studies how the body recognizes its mistakes.
“If we can figure out how recognition occurs within the cell,” she said, “we can learn how the body initiates the repair process.”
Bringing recognition to the details of DNA
Westwood and other researchers from the MSU chemistry department recently published a collaborative paper on their research findings.
The research could provide insight needed to prevent and treat diseases.
“Understanding the mechanism at play in the body is key to shaping proper medical interventions in the biophysical and biochemistry fields,” she said. “There’s power in knowing every detail of DNA.”
Advocating for women and LQBTQ in STEM
Through the NSF ADVANCE catalyst project, MSU is making strides in increasing representation in STEM.
Westwood hopes she and other female students in the chemistry department can make a difference in women’s representation as future leaders in the field.
“Having few contributors of women’s perspective in the sciences leads those few to become the voice of entire communities of women. Such a limited presence can’t adequately represent women as a whole,” Westwood said.
“The many women at the undergraduate and graduate level in our program can improve the experience for generations of female scientists.”
Westwood has learned that such support in the chemistry department extends to recognizing the varying statuses of women’s identities.
This includes many as members of the LGBTQ community. Westwood is a member of the community herself.
“There’s growing diversity in the chemistry department at MSU,” Westwood said, “and the department’s community as a whole has been such a strong ally of women and LGBTQ in STEM.”