Undergrad Has a Personal Connection to His Research

Rehman Basharat’24 — the URECA Researcher of the Month for January — is an aspiring physician, majoring in biology, interdisciplinary biology track. For more than two years, Basharat has been doing research in the laboratory of Howard Sirotkin, an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior.

“The reason I initially was interested in the Sirotkin lab was because I had a close relative who had some developmental issues and I knew that Dr. Sirotkin did research on neurodevelopmental issues, such as Parkinson’s and ASD,” explains Basharat. “So I contacted him, and he gave me the opportunity to work in his lab.”

In the Sirotkin lab, Basharat has learned zebrafish husbandry, collecting zebrafish embryos, purification techniques, genotyping, behavioral assays and microinjecting. His main project in the Sirotkin group involves optimizing a novel genome editing technique (prime editing) to develop zebrafish ASD models that can be used to understand neurodevelopmental defects and to screen potential therapeutic compounds. 

Basharat was awarded URECA funding in both Summers 2022 and 2023, and presented a poster on “Modeling ASD-Associated NMDAR Missense Mutations in Zebrafish” at the 2023 URECA Celebration. He will be presenting his work on “Optimization of Prime Editing to Develop Disease Associated Variant Models” later this month at the National Collegiate Research Conference (NCRC) at Harvard University, with support from a URECA mini-grant award. He has also done some work on K-RAS and its role in pancreatic cancer in the Reich lab.

Basharat’s shares some advice about doing undergraduate research: “My biggest advice is to pursue something that you care about. If you have a family member who has cancer, you might be more motivated to pursue cancer research, because it’s something that’s relevant to you. Do something that you like. Pursue something you are interested in, because you’ll put more time in the lab and be more engaged overall if you’re doing something you like or care about.”

On campus, Basharat has been active as a teaching assistant for Biochemistry I, Statistics and Probability, and Molecular Science I, and served as a tutor for the Academic Success and Tutoring Center. He is currently executive vice president for the campus chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Basharat also volunteers at the Stony Brook Cancer Center, participated in the Stony Brook Clinical Experience Program, and has completed bystander training/certifications at the Center for Prevention and Outreach.

Read the interview with URECA Director Karen Kernan.

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