Spotlight on Miles Kubota: RNA Chemical Biologist, soon to be PhD graduate, & Judo Green Belt

Spotlight on Miles Kubota: RNA Chemical Biologist, soon to be PhD graduate, & Judo Green Belt

This academic year, five of our PhD students defended their dissertations and are moving to the next stage of their careers post-UCI. Each individual’s journey through graduate school is different, so we asked our students to reflect on their time here and how it has prepared them for life after grad school.

Miles Kubota, a member of the Spitale Lab and an Amgen Fellow, shares how his time at UCI has helped him grow professionally and personally and how much his life has changed over the past five years.

Why did you choose UCI’s PhD program?

I chose the UCI Pharmacological Sciences PhD Program for several reasons. First, was many of my friends from undergraduate were attending PhD programs here at UCI and encouraged me to apply and come to UCI. Second, my fiancé was finishing up her undergraduate degree and I wanted to be close. Third, I met Andrej Luptak when he gave a seminar at my undergraduate institution and pitched the MCP program.

What is your research about?

RNA is a highly regulatory biomolecule within the cell. RNA has been identified in many biological processes that involve growth and development. The dysregulation of RNA in such processes have been correlated with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Methods to study such RNA processes lack in precision which modern chemical methods offer. These chemical methods include chemical probing of RNA structures and metabolic incorporation of modified nucleosides into nascent transcripts. These chemical methods add precision to current methods through subcellular profiling, enzyme-substrate pairs for cell-type specific labeling, multifunctional nucleosides for profiling RNA-protein interactions, and multicomponent labeling for RNA lifetimes with determination of sites of incorporation. Combining these chemical techniques with modern sequencing methods offers a holistic view of RNA biology in real time. Here, is presented the work toward advancing chemical methods for studying RNA biology.

What are you doing after graduation?

After graduation, there’s a lot going on initially. First I am looking for a job that hopefully leads to a career that bridges the gap between pharmaceuticals and public health. Aside from my career, I have to prepare for my wedding. To help get in shape for my wedding, I want to further develop my skills in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo.

How has your time at UCI helped you grow professionally and/or personally?

Professionally, I have learned to be self-sufficient but I have also developed my ability to adapt to change; I have taught myself that you just need to move on with life. Life is too short to be holding onto all of these minor details; you have to keep in mind what’s right for you.

What is most memorable about your time here at UCI?

There were two substantial memorable moments while here at UCI. The first was when I found out my former undergrad, Catherine, was accepted into USC’s PharmD program. I was full of pride when I found out and I wish her the best as she goes on in life.

The second most memorable moment at UCI isn’t related to science at all. The latter part of my graduate career at UCI, I participated in Judo. I first took up Judo when I was in high school but did not stick with it. I picked the sport back up here at UCI and earned my green belt. It was something I thought I could never achieve due to my experience in high school. Even though I have suffered injuries while doing Judo, I will continue to learn and grow with it because it’s a constant reminder of my Japanese heritage.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

When I first started graduate school, I wanted to be the person that was going to cure HIV. I was considering doing a startup that will develop novel therapeutics. Around my second year, a few articles were published on SIV, a non-human retrovirus much like HIV, immunity with treatment with monoclonal antibodies. Later, a seminar here at UCI showed this strategy could be applied to other viruses as well. With my initial goal completed by others, I looked to where my career can fit into this greater HIV problem. Millions of people around the world are living with HIV. Even though antiretroviral therapies exist, getting these drugs to people can still be challenging due to various factors. I decided my career was no longer with finding the cure for HIV but provide my knowledge and skills of chemistry and pharmaceuticals to get these novel therapies to the people in need.

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