Photo by Mike Lovett

Julia Schiantarelli '17

 

Brandeis Inside Out: Julia Schiantarelli

Get the inside skinny on what it means to be Brandeisian from students themselves

Newton, Mass., native Julia Schiantarelli '17 is an undergraduate researcher in Professor Bruce Goode’s lab, where she combines genetics, biology and biochemistry to study actin, the human body’s most abundant protein.

What do you nerd out about?

Finding a serious research position as a freshman is practically unheard of at any other school, but not at Brandeis. I have been trained to guide my own independent project and am expected to present my results alongside all the graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.

Despite my age and inexperience, I have been given the responsibility to push my project in any direction I find interesting with the guidance of my mentor. While in some ways I have been thrown into the metaphorical “deep end” of scientific research, I have always felt respected and nurtured in the lab. Besides the fact that serious research experience is essential for graduate or medical school, the opportunity has pushed me to achieve more than I ever thought I was capable of.

What is your favorite class?

Organic chemistry, so far, is the best class I’ve ever taken at Brandeis. After giving us a thorough background in the first semester and the beginning of second semester, Professor Pontrello launched into a whole lecture series on the application of organic chemistry to drug development and treatment. Seeing the relevance of the reaction mechanisms we were learning in class made it so much more exciting.

When did it all click?

For all of my experiments, I need purified proteins. These proteins are very difficult to separate from other cellular components and can take up to eight hours to obtain, even in experienced hands. The first time I had to do this procedure on my own, my mentor wasn’t there to answer questions. I entered the lab at 9 a.m. and it wasn’t until 11 p.m. that I was jumping for joy, almost knocking over the liquid nitrogen, because I had succeeded in the process by myself.

It all clicked for me over February break when I was asked to purify some proteins for a lab at another university. My results had a higher yield, even though they all had doctorates.

What makes a Brandeis student?

Brandeis students tend to be very genuine. I think this was the first thing that attracted me to the school on Admitted Students Day.