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Photo of Elizar Barbar

Deep dive into key COVID-19 protein is a step toward new drugs, vaccines
OSU News, KGW8, NSF, KOIN, NSF The Discovery Files-The Ties That Bind
Researchers in the Oregon State University College of Science have taken a key step toward new drugs and vaccines for combating COVID-19 with a deep dive into one protein’s interactions with SARS-CoV-2 genetic material.

PhD candidate, Heather Masson-Forsythe, wins COVID-19 category of the 2021 Dance Your PhD contest!
The Dance Your Ph.D. contest has been challenging scientists to explain their research through dance for 14 years now. The judges selected winners in the categories of chemistry, biology, and social sciences, who will receive $750 each. They also crowned the winner of a new category created this year—COVID-19—which comes with its own $500 award.

Following this contest, Heather was featured in Science, Forbes, NPR, IMPACT, ASBMB, cnet, ars technica, and more!

Dance your PhD 2021 Winner

PhD candidate, Heather Masson-Forsythe, is highlighted for her science outreach through TikTok!

International Business Times: Scientist's Viral TikTok Quells COVID-19 Vaccine Fears To The Tune Of Megan Thee Stallion

Controversial Dive Podcast: Please Wear a Mask (Diving into COVID-19)

Twist Bioscience: STEM vs STEAM, why STEM Should Welcome the Arts!

"Today, we see a wave of individuals already bought into this idea who are taking matters into their own hands using social media as their platform. They have taken personal responsibility for sharing and spreading their love of the sciences to others, making STEM disciplines more relatable, engaging, and fun for the next generation. And many of them are employing a new protocol (if you will) to get the job done, utilizing music, dance, drawing, makeup, creative writing, visual design, performance, and more to get the message across."


Former student, Dr. Nathan Jesperson was a Chateaubriand fellow in 2018 at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - Gif-Sur-Yvette for 6 months.

Photo of Dr. Nathan Jesperson

"My research centers on the interactions between the rabies virus and a specific host protein called LC8, which is important for everything from intracellular transport, to apoptosis (intentional cell death). The rabies virus is extremely lethal ( 100% once symptoms arise), but a previous study has found that disallowing binding between LC8 and rabies results in completely survival rabies infections (0% lethality). While my lab in the US is a structural biophysics lab, which has allowed me to study this HOW of this interaction, my work in France focused on understanding the WHY. In France we looked at a few specific pathways, like viral replication and immunosuppression, and showed that the dramatic difference is caused, in part, by an inability of the virus to copy its genetic material."

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Barbar Lab on the radio!

Photo of Elisar Barbar on the radio!

"Heather is a 4th year PhD candidate working with Dr. Elisar Barbar in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. The Barbar lab conducts work in structural biology and biophysics. Specifically, they are trying to understand molecular processes that dictate protein networks involving disordered proteins and disordered protein regions. To do this work, the lab uses a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).... Your eye completely forms before birth, and the lens of the eye that helps us see is made of a protein called crystallin. This protein is essential to the structure and function of the eye, but it cannot be regenerated by the body so whatever you have at birth is all you will ever have. However, in the eye lens of someone affected by cataracts, the crystallin proteins become unfolded and then aggregate together."

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