Garcia Lab Post #2 – Mariel Mendoza, Graduate Student

January 23, 2020

Hi, I’m Mariel. I’m a third year graduate student joint between Ben Garcia and Shelley Berger. My research mainly focuses on the mechanisms of the metabolic enzyme ACSS2, which converts acetate to acetyl-CoA, which can then get incorporated into lipids and histone proteins. This enzyme is important because a lot of cancers overexpress ACSS2, so understanding its role will provide insight into how these cancer cells can adapt, especially in hypoxic areas within tumors.

Being a shared student between two epigenetics labs has been a great experience. I get to use mass spectrometry as a tool in understanding a lot of different epigenetic mechanisms that we are interested in figuring out in the Berger lab. After being in the lab for almost two years now, I’ve learned so many cool things about mass spec and how powerful it is in answering a lot of biological questions. Also, being in both labs has been very helpful for me because I get to be around a lot of awesome grad students and postdocs who are very knowledgeable in different areas of expertise. There is always someone to ask for help if I want to try CRISPR, purify proteins, or optimize mass spec methods for my project. It has been a really unique opportunity to be a part of both labs.

One of the great things about being in Ben’s lab is the very supportive environment. Everyone in the lab is very encouraging and friendly. Also, Ben has created a very unique lab environment where despite the large group, we still get to know our labmates and build friendships outside of work. He brings us to ASMS and HUPO conferences each year, hosts lab parties in his house, and takes us to lots of happy hours. During one of the lab parties, we did a murder mystery party where everyone dressed up as a hero or a villain, and Yekaterina was murdered by Laura who ended up taking over the whole planet!

Overall, as a grad student, I really enjoy being a part of Ben’s lab because of the very productive and supportive lab environment. Being a joint student makes it more exciting because I get to use mass spectrometry in answering a lot of different questions we have in epigenetics.