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Graduate Student Spotlight
Ryan Vignogna is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Biochemistry program.
Ryan completed his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry & molecular biology at DeSales University. It was there Ryan conducted research on the structure of archaeal proteins in the laboratory of Julie Himmelberger, kickstarting an interest in protein structure and evolution. Following this interest, Ryan joined Greg Lang’s laboratory at Lehigh in the fall of 2016.
The Lang lab studies the molecular basis of evolution using the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same yeast used to make bread and brew beer. This simple but powerful genetic system allows for the study of evolution in real-time. Yeast populations are propagated in 96-well plates and diluted daily by a robotic liquid handler. These populations are frozen down at regular intervals, creating a frozen “fossil record.” This allows one to go back in time and observe how these populations evolved over the course of an experiment. Making use of whole-genome sequencing, the Lang lab can determine what mutations arose during an evolution experiment.
Ryan’s focus in the Lang lab involves studying how genes interact and how these interactions influence evolution. His current project involves studying a human metabolic disease, congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG). The most common cause of this disease is mutations in the phosphomannomutase gene, PMM2. S. cerevisiae has a nearly identical phosphomannomutase gene called SEC53. Ryan has experimentally-evolved yeast strains carrying different SEC53 alleles implicated in glycosylation disorders, and is working on identifying genetic interactions that compensate for SEC53-deficiency.
Ryan was the vice-president of the Biological Organization of Graduate Students (BOGS). During his tenure with BOGS, Ryan helped implement panels and workshops aimed at enhancing the professional skills of graduate students within the department. Ryan was also a teaching assistant for the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories Yeast Genetics and Genomics course in 2019, helping train budding yeast geneticists. In his free time Ryan enjoys scuba diving, going to Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs & Phantoms games, and spending time with his dog, Decaf.
The research in the Lang Lab is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
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