Oregon State University: Oregon State Science Pub to feature speaker who uses dance to communicate science

A recent doctoral graduate of Oregon State University who won a national contest for using dance to communicate her research will be the speaker at Oregon State’s Science Pub on March 14.

The virtual event, a joint effort of Oregon State University in Corvallis and OSU-Cascades in Bend, will feature Heather Masson-Forsythe, who earned her Ph.D. from Oregon State earlier this year. Her presentation is titled: “Investigating how COVID-19 proteins stick to viral RNA and taking research from the lab to the dance floor.” This is a rescheduled event from January.

Masson-Forsythe’s thesis research centered on the nucleocapsid protein of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic. Using a variety of biophysical and biochemical techniques, Masson-Forsythe, along with members of Elisar Barbar’s lab group in OSU’s Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, characterized the nucleocapsid phosphoprotein and protein-RNA interactions.

The nucleocapsid protein, or N protein, is a prime target for disease-fighting interventions because of the critical jobs it performs for the coronavirus’ infection cycle and because it mutates at a comparatively slow pace. Drugs and vaccines built around the work of the N protein carry the potential to be highly effective and for longer periods of time – i.e., less susceptible to resistance.

Throughout the research project, Masson-Forsythe used the app TikTok to document what it’s like to be a scientist trying to make research contributions to the ongoing global pandemic. With the handle @heycurlytop, she accumulated more than 50,000 TikTok followers and created videos that received hundreds of thousands of views.

She also turned her COVID-19 research project into a dance and submitted it to the 13th annual Dance Your Ph.D. contest organized by Science Magazine. She won in the newly created COVID-19 category and the video has been viewed approximately 40,000 times on YouTube.

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