Shaleen Thakur

Mentor: Dr. Jörg Bungert
College of Medicine
 
"The summer after my junior year in high school, I participated in the Student Science Training Program at UF, in which I researched the interactions between transcription factor TFII-I and topoisomerase II alpha and beta, in Dr. Bungert’s laboratory. I had not expected to become so drawn to a topic that I had no prior knowledge of, yet the more I didn’t know, the more I wanted to comprehend. After coming to UF, I had the opportunity to join Dr. Bungert’s laboratory again and I continue to enjoy expanding my knowledge, and in turn, hope to be able to extend this knowledge to further our society."

Major

Applied Physiology and Kinesiology

Minor

Anthropology

Research Interests

  • Genetics
  • Immunotherapy
  • Drug Discovery

Academic Awards

  • University Scholars Program
  • College of Human Health and Performance Dean’s List
  • Golden Key International Honor Society
  • Florida Academic Scholars Award

Organizations

  • Impact Autism
  • Center for Pre-collegiate Education and Training
  • Pediatric After Hours Clinic

Volunteer

  • Teen Gators – Mentor UF
  • UF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities
  • Children Beyond Our Borders

Hobbies and Interests

  • Dancing
  • Traveling
  • Learning languages
  • Florida Football

Research Description

Analysis of Zinc Finger DNA Binding Domain's Specificity and Role in Regulating the Beta-Globin Locus
Beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease are caused by reduced expression or expression of a mutant beta-globin gene. The focus of our lab is on the beta-globin gene locus, which consists of five globin genes that encode subunits of hemoglobin, the oxygen transporter in the blood. Beta-globin genes are expressed in a developmental stage specific manner and the expression is regulated by a tissue specific, super-enhancer called the LCR (Locus Control Region). The main goal of our laboratory is to understand the role of the LCR in regulating expression of the beta-globin genes, which may lead to the development of new therapeutic approaches for these disorders. As a tool we use synthetic zinc finger DNA binding domains (ZF-DBDs) to target genomic sites that are occupied by transcription factors. ZF-DBDs in combination with nucleases are also promising tools for genome editing, but the relatively low specificity of these ZF-DBDs has been an issue for a while. This project will focus on the design, protein expression, purification and DNA-binding analysis of ZF-DBDs to obtain ZF-DBDs with higher affinity and specificity.