The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) Department is fortunate to have a multitude of exceptional graduate students within its Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Program dedicated to developing their research and teaching skills. Our students are making discoveries and generating independent knowledge through their research within our labs.
Meet Corinna Moro, a graduate student, originally from Montreal in Quebec, Canada, working towards her Ph.D. in the BMMB Program. Corinna’s interest in science and how the world works developed at an early age. Having grown up on her parent’s lilac farm, and watching them create hybridizations, Corinna realized that seeds from white flowering lilacs produced mostly colored progeny. This fascinated her and led her to want to know why. As she progressed through school, and was able to begin taking biology courses, she learned what Punnett Squares were and how fascinating genetics is and could be. Inheritance patterns, mutations, and the like were something I was surrounded by, and I always wanted to describe what was happening,” says Corinna. My parents didn’t quite understand what I was rambling on about, but they were happy to see how passionate I was.”
Corinna’s interest in science, and desire to learn more, led her to attend Penn State for her undergraduate degree. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Immunology & Infectious Disease in only 3 years she felt that Penn State had more to offer her and therefore decided it was the perfect place to pursue her Ph.D. “Penn State allowed me to grow, ask questions, and the scientific atmosphere was something I enjoyed profoundly,” said Corinna.
Currently, Corinna, conducts her research in the Hanna-Rose Laboratory under the mentorship of Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Wendy Hanna-Rose. The focus of the research in the Hanna-Rose Laboratory is to understand how very specific perturbations to the vast metabolic network result in physiological and behavioral outcomes. The laboratory focuses on inborn errors of purine metabolism in order to identify how loss of activity of specific enzymes involved in synthesis of purines, results in muscle ataxias, behavioral deficits, and reproductive dysfunction. The laboratory also investigates how manipulations of biosynthetic pathways for synthesis of the central metabolite NAD+ result in specific sensory and developmental phenotypes.
Corinna’s research specifically uses the model organism, C. elegans, to study the neurological aspects of the rare inborn error of purine metabolism disease known as adenylosuccinate lyase deficiency (ASLD). Only 80 people in the world have been diagnosed with the disease, and unfortunately there are currently no therapeutic treatments available. Corinna’s research uses C. elegans with a reduced adenylosuccinate lyase activity to study neurobehavioral manifestations associated with the human disease adenylosuccinate lyase deficiency (ASLD). Using this model, seeks to understand the connection between cellular and metabolic changes seen in this disease and the neurobehavioral phenotypes observed. She hopes her research can contribute to further understanding of ASLD and other neurobehavioral disorders.
One of the greatest setbacks Corinna has experienced in her life has been dealing with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease for most of her life. In 2020, she was officially diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a rare form of arthritis that causes pain and stiffness in the spine. Since her diagnosis she has been able to begin a regimen of biologics that “have helped me gain my life back.” She credits the support of her friends and family, especially her husband, Ian, in being a tremendous help in the struggles of her day-to-day life. “I was also thankful for the support of my PI, Dr. Wendy Hanna-Rose, who understood my arduous journey to diagnosis during my graduate studies,” says Corinna.
Outside of the Laboratory, Corinna spends her time volunteering and hiking. She is a volunteer at the Pennsylvania Ferret Rescue Association in State College where she fosters ferrets who are usually older and have medical conditions. “These ferrets usually do not get adopted, but still deserve a loving forever home,” says Corinna. Additionally, she also serves as a specialty judge for the American Ferret Association, where she judges ferrets based on their color patterns. She hopes, in the future, to be promoted to a conformational judge with the organization.
A new hobby that Corinna has recently discovered is hiking. “Living close to Rothrock and Bald Eagle State Forests, I’ve been enjoying the trails in every season,” says Corinna. Hiking reminds her of her childhood, where she would go and identify trees and plants that were in her area. Being in nature is calming for Corinna, but also brings to mind many thoughts of the future and what she wants to do with her life. “There’s a lot of soul searching and a lot of time to reflect about desires and wants in life, says Corinna. “Although AS [ankylosing spondylitis] was a scary diagnosis with an unknown future, I celebrate every little step I take and take pride in myself for doing it.”
Corinna serves as a wonderful example of where a passion to learn, a motivation to endure, and desire to help can take you in life. The Department is extremely fortunate to have Corinna as a part of its Team and looks forward to her continued contributions to the Department, as well as following her future career.
Congratulations Corinna for serving as an example of why We Are Penn State!