Project ON THE TRAIL OF A CANCER CURE

Olga and her mother came to the U.S. from Belarus 11 years ago, after Olga's grandmother lost a battle with cancer. Olga suspects the radiation still lingering from the 1986 explosion of a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl caused the cancer, and she is determined to be an active player in the effort to nail a cure for cancer.

harrison project
Discriminatory Metabolite RecognitionBy Two mRNA Riboswitches.
She's exploring two recently discovered mechanisms in messenger RNA that can turn genes on and off. Since mRNA carries the instructions for making a protein, Olga says that being able to control the newfound metabolite-binding stuctures, or riboswitches, "may lead to the development of new drugs that target certain mRNAs and stop cancer cells from reproducing."

At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, she struggled for 18 months to shed light on the two riboswitches, which turn on or shut down genes by binding to small organic molecules, such as adenine. Olga synthesized and purified the DNAs of the riboswitches, cloned them in Escherichia coli bacteria, and many painstaking experiments later, discovered how to turn the bound mRNA-adenine complex into the perfect crystals needed for crystallographic studies. That work uncovered the structure of the riboswitches and how they target metabolites with such high affinity and exquisite specificity. The first report of their tuning-fork-like architecture was featured on the cover of last December's Chemistry & Biology.


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INTEL SCIENCE SEARCH FINALIST Olga Pikovskaya

Olga Pikovskaya


Essay:

Repaying the West's Debt to Islam


Midwood High School
Brooklyn, N.Y.


Hobbies: Gymnastics, violin, snowboarding


Ambition: Research in medicine or genetics