Page Menu

Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology Blog

Gily Schneider-Nachum

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

I am Gila (Gily) Schneider-Nachum, born and raised in Israel. I am a Post-Doc in Daniel Bolon's lab and a proud mother of 4 grown children - 3 boys and a girl. I love to read books both fiction and nonfiction. The last book I read, and loved, was Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia. I’m an early riser and love to exercise early in the morning. I’m an avid swimmer and enjoy swimming outdoors when possible but because of NE weather, I mostly swim at the Y.

What set you on a trajectory of becoming a scientist?

My brother got a small chemistry set for his 13th birthday, he didn’t like it, but I couldn’t get enough of it. My parents that were always my best cheerleaders helped me expand through the years, but after I almost burned the house down by lighting a strip of Magnesium, they steered me towards vocational high school with a program for lab techs. When I graduated, I did my army service in a spectrometric lab. We analyzed jet oil from plane engines and according to their metal ion contents could point which part of the engine was failing. After the service, I was curtained, I want to work in science. I was interested in how chemistry works in living organisms, so I went into biochemistry.

Are there any setbacks you faced on your journey and what did you do to overcome them?

I was born with cerebral palsy which limit some movements of my right limbs. Everywhere I went before starting college, I was challenged by people in authority positions for my capabilities. They usually said, you can’t do it without two completely functioning hands, well I proved them wrong. I always strived to do better than “normal” people and usually with hard work and determination did.

What is your current research focus?

I am interested in coupling of protein structure and function and how small change in a protein can alter its function and cause disease.

My model system is HIV-1 protease.

Viruses are very little and smart, they can’t reproduce by themselves but can harness another organism cells to their bidding, reproduce and expend their population. Their genetic material either DNA or in the HIV virus case RNA are compacted and arranged smartly. By overlapping genes and multiple reading frames, the virus produce larger number of proteins needed for its replication and expansion. One of these proteins is protease. The protease cutout individual proteins from larger polypeptide produced by the cellular machinery according to virus blueprint. In addition, HIV-1 protease also cleaves itself from the larger polypeptide. The way it does it is not fully understood and I hope to add a little contribution to understanding this process.

How would you describe your research?

Even though, I love lab work and I’m doing a lot of it, research demands a lot of preparation work. I read a lot and think a lot about what question I’m seeking an answer for and how best to achieve it. Along the way, there are a lot of missteps, mistakes and bad days when nothing goes right but, there is no better feeling when you finally succeed to move your quest a little forward.

How does your research apply to the broader world and why its important outside of the scientific community?

I’m doing basic research, but basic science is the foundation for developing new drugs and new protocols of treating patients. A better understanding of protease function may lead to developing better therapeutic treatment.

Why did you choose your current lab and/or UMass Chan?

I was looking for a way into a research lab in UMass, since my family and I moved to Massachusetts, but I had a gap of more than ten years since I graduated with my PhD. Daniel Bolon’s research of HSP90 (Heat Shock Protein) raised my interest. I was fascinated with multiple functions, co-chaperons and clients this protein had. I contacted Dr. Bolon and we had couple of conversations and the rest is history.

What is the coolest thing about your research?

Everything is cool. Research is cool, the facilities we have are cool, the people we worked with are cool. We are blessed.

What are some of the lessons that you have learned along the way that you would like to share with trainees who recently joined our department?

Research is demanding. You always think about your project, there are a lot of missteps and setbacks and more failures than successes. However, if you are a hard worker, a thinker and love learning there is no better place for you.

Don’t start an experiment before reading and planning.

Enjoy the journey.

Any advice you wished you had gotten when you first started as a scientist?

Get a good base. Learn a lot of math, physics and chemistry and most important of all learn how to program. I was accepted to an undergraduate program that combined biology with computer science and chosen another program. I regret not having a better understanding in computer science and mathematics.

Is there something you would say to your younger self?

You did good by choosing science as a career.

You did well by putting your family first, but you should have found a better way to keep your career going during the time you raised your family.