Mariela Zeledón (S'08)
Biological Sciences major, Geneticist-in-training, Science and Humanities Scholar
Investigating the function of genes in yeast and in humans
When she was in middle school, Mariela Zeledón volunteered as a translator for a group of therapists traveling to Costa Rica to treat children with Down's Syndrome. It was then that she realized that scientists who decipher molecular mechanisms and seek genetic culprits have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on people's lives. Since then, she's been focused on conducting research in genetics that will have an impact on human health.
Zeledón, a Science and Humanities Scholar and a biological sciences major with a minor in religious studies, began doing research early in her education. Focusing on her interest in genetics and molecular biology, she conducted research analyzing the PBN1 gene in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae under the guidance of Biological Sciences Professor Elizabeth Jones. Zeledón worked to create a library of yeast bearing temperature-sensitive PBN1 mutations for studying the vital, but unknown, function of PBN1.
She has also worked with an international team of researchers mapping genes linked to alcohol dependency and bipolar disorder. At the Center for Cellular & Molecular Biology research at the Universidad de Costa Rica, Zeledón helped to recruit patients to the project, interviewed them and explained to them the details of the project.
"It offered me a unique opportunity to understand the effects of the disease, discuss complex molecular methodologies with non-scientists and become a more caring researcher," said Zeledón.
Zeledón was invited to join Sigma Xi, a national scientific research society, and she was selected to receive a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. In addition to her interest in conducting research, Zeledón also participates in many extracurricular activities, including the Mellon College of Science Diversity committee, judicial board, Lambda Sigma, a national honor society that fosters leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and the spirit of service among college students, and the Mortar Board Society, members of which which dedicate themselves to leadership and service.