2024 Student Speakers

Avani Laharia

Avani is a senior majoring in biochemistry. She is the secretary of both the Stupka Planning Committee and Biochemistry Club. She has worked in Dr. Dipali Sashital’s lab as an undergraduate researcher since her freshman year. Her project studies retron systems, a type of bacterial defense system against bacteriophages. Her hobbies include cross-stitching, baking, and tending to her large collection of houseplants! After graduating from Iowa State, she plans to attend medical school.

Austin Petfalski

Austin is a sophomore studying biochemistry. He is the Stupka media co-chair and director of the 2024 Stupka promotional video. Currently, he works in Dr. Julien Roche’s lab, and plans to earn a master’s degree in biochemistry. From there, Austin hopes to work in medicine or pharmaceuticals. His project focuses on a transcription factor Activation Transcription Factor 4 (ATF4), which is disordered and ubiquitously expressed throughout the human body. The overall goal of his project is to explore how multisite phosphorylation affects the transcriptional activity of ATF4.

Preston Pellatz

Preston is a senior in biochemistry. He is a lab assistant for BBMB 312 and has worked in the lab of Dr. Reuben Peters for several years. His project covers the investigation of the accessibility of divergent functions in ancestral enzymes by asking if single residue switches for product outcome apply to ancestral reconstructed genes. He plans to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt University or the University of Iowa to study neuroscience and obtain a Ph.D.