- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Murphy, a fourth-year UC Davis student majoring in neurobiology, physiology, and behavior, received $1563 to study “Codon Optimization: Cracking the Genetic Code.” A codon is a unit of three nucleotides that together codes for an amino acid, the building block of proteins in all organisms. Using the fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model system, Murphy is exploring the functional significance of codon bias, a phenomenon in which certain codons are favored over others even though they may code for the same amino acid.
Murphy has worked in the Chiu lab since 2011. “Katie is one of the most talented and hardworking student I have ever encountered,” Chiu said. “I can't think of anyone else who is more deserving of this award.”
Murphy is one of a select group of students in the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, organized and directed by professor Jay Rosenheim and assistant professors Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu. The program aims to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology.
The Provost's Undergraduate Fellowship supports undergraduate students doing research or creative projects under the guidance of UC Davis faculty members. Students from all discipline areas are eligible to apply
As a Provost fellow, Murphy will present her work at the annual UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference, which takes place April 25–26 in Freeborn Hall.
In 2012, Murphy received a UC President's Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her research on "Transgenic Yeast as an Organic Pesticide," exploring the use of RNAi technology in combating the invasive pest, the spotted-wing Drosophila suzukii. She also received a 2013 McBeth Memorial Scholarship and a 2010 Voorhies Memorial Scholarship.
Murphy is a 2010 graduate of Kelseyville High School (Lake County) and valedictorian of her class.
“My favorite subject in high school was biology,” she recalled. “My favorite project was when we dissected a cat in anatomy. In college, I lucked into a lab job where my boss and co-workers were willing to teach me and allowed me the freedom to take on my own projects, an opportunity that few undergrads get.”
Following graduation, she plans to travel and continue her current research projects.