My name is Robin Aguilar and I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle.
I’m from East Los Angeles, California!
I attended DePauw University for my undergraduate studies where I majored in biochemistry and did a double minor in computer science and Spanish. In addition to my graduate studies, I’m the co-founder of the Genome Sciences Association for the Inclusion of Minority Students (GSAIMS), which is a student-led group to expand supportive spaces and networks for BIPOC and NBPOC in the Department of Genome Sciences and all students at UW.
As a QPOC activist, building community has been incredibly invaluable and I aim to make tangible department-wide structural changes to help support students of color find success at all stages of their graduate and professional careers.
My current research is focused on computational biology and software development with applications toward microscopy and imaging. More specifically, I am developing tools to image satellite DNA which has often been called the ‘dark matter’ of genomes. Like puzzle pieces, chromosomes make up a dynamic picture of how the genome is organized and how their organization leads to cell function in health and disease. With my software tools (one of them being called Tigerfish), we will be able to image specific changes in how satellite DNA directly contributes to centromere function, genome assembly, evolutionary studies in model organisms, and even how specific satellite DNA families contribute to oncogenesis.
As a tech developer, I love being able to create tools to help image regions of the genome that have yet to be resolved! In addition to being a scientist and activist, I’m also a science illustrator and a writer. Currently. I’m working on a memoir about my experiences as a trans QPOC in academia.
3 SATELLITE DNA FACTS IN MY ORBIT
- When satellite DNAs were first discovered using density gradients, this was observed in the 1960s, not too shortly after the Sputnik satellite was launched. So yes, their names are not coincidental!
- It’s believed that satellite DNAs are relatively young repetitive sequences and can span megabases in different genomes. Different organisms vary in repetitive DNA content, and it’s hypothesized they contribute to speciation events in many cases.
- Satellite DNAs make up the last frontier in finishing the assembly of many genomes (including the human genome) because they are very repetitive.
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