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Student Q&A: Marihan Hegazy, Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences

Marihan Hegazy

Marihan Hegazy, a sixth-year student in the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences (DGP), studies the molecular mechanisms that promote cell-cell interaction and epidermal differentiation in the laboratory of Kathleen Green, PhD, the Joseph L. Mayberry, Sr., Professor of Pathology and Toxicology.

Read a Q&A with Hegazy below.

Where is your hometown?

I was born in Egypt right before my family moved to Chicago. Although I was raised in Chicago, I used to visit Egypt every summer to see my family. 

What are your research interests?

My general research interest lies in exploring the molecular mechanisms that govern tissue development and homeostasis that can be disrupted in patients afflicted with genetic and autoimmune diseases. Thus, Dr. Kathleen Green’s lab is a great fit because the lab uses a variety of techniques to study the role of an intercellular junction called the desmosome in epidermal development, function and disease. Furthermore, Kathy has a strong track record of mentoring students that go on to successful careers in cell biology.

What exciting projects are you working on?

My main project is focused on uncovering the trafficking mechanisms of one of the adhesive components of the desmosome called desmoglein-1 (Dsg1). Previous members in the laboratory found that Dsg1 is important for epidermal differentiation and morphogenesis. Certain functions of Dsg1 have been found to require its proper localization on the plasma membrane.

I aim to elucidate the role of an endosomal trafficking complex called the retromer in regulating Dsg1 recycling to the plasma membrane. We are also testing the effect of a small molecule chaperone that enhances retromer activity on the trafficking and function of both wild-type and disease-associated Dsg1. This could be therapeutically relevant because disruption of Dsg1 localization results in a severe inflammatory skin condition called SAM syndrome (Severe dermatitis, multiple Allergies and Metabolic wasting).

I also have side projects focused on understanding the role of the actin cytoskeleton in regulating Dsg1 stabilization on the plasma membrane, as well as the impact of phosphorylation of the Dsg1 cytoplasmic tail in epidermal stratification, which is important for the formation and maintenance of the multilayered and regenerating epidermis.

What attracted you to your program?

I believe the opportunity to rotate labs to experience different fields in science and medicine made DGP’s umbrella format exciting for me. I also appreciated that the faculty and students foster a caring and collaborative environment making the DGP program an ideal environment for my growth as a scientist.  

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?

My best experience at Feinberg is attending lectures by esteemed scientists featured in seminars such as the Lectures of Life Sciences. These events allow me to expand my knowledge in a variety of topics.

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?

All the faculty that I have interacted with at Feinberg are amazing. They are knowledgeable in their field, care about their students and do their best to guide students to become great scientists.

What do you do in your free time?

I am a homebody. From a young age, I have always enjoyed reading fiction books in my spare time. My husband and I also like exploring different cuisines on the weekends.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Although I am currently leaning towards staying in academia, I can see myself working in either academia or industry. Therefore, I plan to find a post-doctoral position in the near future before making a final decision.