Shedding Light on the Origins of Genetic Disorders
Tieqi Sun '22
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Commonwealth Honors College
“My mentor taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes. He never gets annoyed or angry; he’s amazingly patient and responsive.”
Tieqi Sun of Sharon, Mass., believes that almost anyone can be trained to do the hands-on research he performs. He says what has been most important for his development as an undergraduate research assistant and aspiring physician is understanding the theory behind the work and learning problem solving and critical thinking.
Sun came to UMass Amherst wanting to conduct research with the potential to advance human medicine. In the spring semester of his first year he found a place in the lab of Wei Cui, extension assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (VASCI).
Working with mice in the Cui lab, Sun studies genes in embryo development. “If we suppress a gene and see what happens in mouse embryo development, we can see how that might translate to genetic disorders in humans,” he explains.
I love the satisfaction of scientific discovery—the thrill of looking at something nobody else has ever seen.
The results of his first team project, working with the gene Rbbp4, was published in Biology of Reproduction, with Sun as the second author. His subsequent research, investigating the gene Polr1d with more severe phenotypes, was published in Molecular Reproduction and Development. Both projects were in collaboration with Mager Lab of VASCI under the Knockout Mouse Phenotyping Program (KOMP2) and the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC).
Sun says he has fallen for research. “In the thick of it, preparing test tubes and samples, setting up thermocyclers, and cleaning up microscopes, I was ecstatic to come into the lab and work. The more time I spent in the lab, the more I wanted to achieve. I wanted to know why this research was important and why these samples behaved like they did. I love the satisfaction of scientific discovery—the thrill of looking at something nobody else has ever seen. It was fascinating to think how this microscopic cell could grow and develop into a living, breathing, moving organism.”
Cui says Sun has all the best qualities of a young leader and scientist. “He’s respectful, dedicated, and very intuitive. He has exceeded my expectations in all areas.”
Sun, in turn, values Cui’s mentorship. “He’ll take the time to explain anything we need to know in great detail and has passion for his work. I am incredibly proud to say I work with him at UMass Amherst, and I hope the research we do here can help control genetic abnormalities in developing embryos.”