Rebecca Christine Stecky
Short Research Description
Previous Institutions: University of North Carolina at Asheville
Appalachian State University
Full Research Description
The discipline of science didn't come into my field of vision until my young adulthood, several years after I graduated with my B.S. in Anthropology from Appalachian State University (2011). I had been studying Classical Chinese Medicine when I had a serendipitous run-in with the natural sciences. In 2014, I enrolled in my local college to complete the prerequisites for acupuncture school, which included several semesters each of chemistry and biology, only to find that those prerequisites captured my mind more than Chinese Medicine ever did. Before I knew it, I was eight semesters deep into a Cell & Molecular Biology major, unable to stop seeing the world like a scientist. I see the scientific method as a reliable tool to penetrate the walls of any question, however slow and meandering the path to the answers may be.
In 2016, I began working in Dr. Ted Meigs's cell signaling laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I joined this laboratory to chase my fascination with the complexity of multicellular life: How do trillions of individual cells come together to build a functional organism, and how does dysfunction within these cells cause systemic disease? Meigs Lab researches the ubiquitous mammalian signaling protein, Gα12, which has many homologs throughout the animal kingdom, including Concertina in D. melanogaster and gpa-12 in C. elegans. Some of this protein family's crucial signaling roles have been conserved throughout evolutionary history (e.g. cytoskeletal rearrangements), but unique to mammalian Gα12 are its roles in cell growth signaling and, when overexpressed, oncogenesis. My project entailed decoding these signaling roles' precise structural mechanisms within a particularly divergent C-terminal sequence of Gα12 via homolog-guided mutagenesis, luciferase reporter assays, and protein interaction assays.
I am looking forward to graduate school as an opportunity to explore new ideas and diversify the type of science I do - to gain exposure to new information, learn new techniques, and take on challenging projects that require far-reaching informational synthesis, technical innovation, and perseverance.
When I am not doing science, you will find me making giant messes in the kitchen, falling off my bike, falling asleep to good fiction, exploring the neighborhoods of New York City, planning my next backpacking adventure, and pretending I know how to play whatever instrument is in the same room as me.