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At-home research on computer with cat peaking out from behind computer screen.

April 8, 2021

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

The 'Meet My Research' series aims to showcase the research our students are involved with and the labs where they work. Join us as we go into the lab, introduce you to some of our learners, and interview them about what they're up to with their research and experience at Mayo Clinic!

Meet Taylor Weiskittel, an M.D.-Ph.D. student in the Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Track within the Ph.D. Program of Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and in the M.D. Program of Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine on the Rochester, Minnesota campus.

What draws you to research?

I merge computational tools like machine learning and advanced mathematics with biological insights to understand biological systems. Usually I do this by creating an algorithm, a set of steps carried out by a computer, that can tell us new things about biology. Recently, I finished an algorithm that understands which mutation within cancer patients are the most important for their disease. Combining computing and biology into the algorithms we make gives us the power to discover novel insights like individualize cancer mutational predictions.

What does your research entail?

My research is focused on the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Specifically, I work on understanding the KRAS oncogenic signaling pathway which is the driving force behind PDAC development. My lab uses modern molecular biological techniques and bioinformatics to investigate the molecular basis for the development of pancreatic cancer in order to decipher the most efficient method for treatment.

How would you describe your research to a 10-year-old?

I use computers to understand how our cells talk to each other, and what kinds of things those cells could be saying to make people sick.

Tell us about your lab or where you do your research. What lab are you in and what is your role? 

I am a part of the Hu Li systems biology and pharmacology laboratory. I am one of three graduate students in the lab, and my research is focused on individualized and cellular level systems biology. I get guidance along the way from Dr. Li and our senior scientists, and also get to mentor rotation and undergraduate students in the lab.

What has been your favorite thing about being involved with research at Mayo Clinic?

It is such a privilege to collaborate with such brilliant passionate scientists. Mayo gives young scientists like myself such a fantastic place to mature due to all the role models and peers we interact with.

What are your future career goals?

I will hopefully one day be a physician scientist! For the physician part, I will be a radiation oncologist, and I hope to take the problems my patients bring to the clinic back to my lab so that I can research possible solutions. As a scientist, I would like to run a lab of systems and synthetic biologists that focuses on engineering the next generation of biomedical therapies and diagnostic tools.