Skip to main content
Undergraduate Programs

Meet our Spring Student Marshals:
Eilene Deng

Image of Eilene Deng

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is proud to recognize Eilene Deng as a Student Marshal for the 2022 Spring Commencement! Eilene is a graduate of State College Area High School in State College, Pennsylvania.  A Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, She has earned a spot on the Dean’s List a remarkable seven times throughout her undergraduate career.

After graduation Eilene plans to conduct immunology research for two years as a Post-Bac Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Following her time at the NIH, she plans to matriculate into a MD/Ph.D. program and conduct immunology research as a physician-scientist in the future.

Congratulations Eilene on being named a Spring 2021 Student Marshal, and also for serving as a wonderful of example of why We Are Penn State!

Read more, below, about Eilene’s remarkable undergraduate career.

I was incredibly honored to have been selected as a student marshal for the BMB department. It is a recognition of my hard work throughout my undergraduate career and it would not have been possible without the support of numerous faculty, staff, and mentors at Penn State. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me become the student and scientist that I am today.
Eilene Deng
Spring 2022 Student Marshal

Commencement Faculty Escort:

  • Dr. David Gilmour


What impact has working with Dr. David Gilmour had on your undergraduate career, and your future career specifically?

Dr. Gilmour has had an incredibly positive impact on my undergraduate career. He has provided invaluable guidance and has furthered my growth as a scientist. Working in Dr. Gilmour's lab provided me with the opportunity to learn how to conduct experiments, ask thoughtful questions, and communicate my work. He has supported me wholeheartedly in all of my scientific endeavors. I am very grateful for my experience in Dr. Gilmour's lab and it has solidified my desire to pursue a career in research. 

I would like to thank Roberta Dollinger, my graduate student mentor in the Gilmour lab, who has helped me immensely over the last four years. Roberta has dedicated many hours to teaching me lab techniques, having conversations about my project, and answering all of my questions. I would also like to thank all of my BMB professors, my advisors, and the staff at the Millennium Scholars program for their guidance. 


What is the most important lesson/memory/observation that you will take with you from your time at Penn State? 

The most valuable lesson that I have learned at Penn State is to seize opportunities that are available. You never know where that one internship application, conversation, or student organization will take you.


Undergraduate Honors and Awards, Extracurricular Activities, and Honorary Society Memberships: 

  • Goldwater Scholar (2021)
  • Evan Pugh Scholar (2021)
  • Erickson Discovery Grant (2021)
  • The President Sparks Award (2020)
  • The President’s Freshman Award (2019)
  • Counselor/Advocate for Centre Safe
  • Co-president of Music Service Club
  • Participated in campus music ensembles such as the Philharmonic Orchestra, Cello Choir, and string quartet.
  • Learning Assistant for CHEM 112 and CHEM 210


In what laboratory did you conduct your research?

  • Dr. David Gilmour


What was your research topic, and can you describe for our audience your research activities?

Since freshman year, I have conducted research in the Gilmour lab, which studies gene regulation. Understanding how gene expression is regulated is important in understanding the process by which genetic information is converted to a particular phenotype. This regulation occurs at the transcriptional (DNA to RNA), translational (RNA to protein), and post-translational levels (protein modifications).

Our lab studies transcriptional regulation, specifically a phenomenon called promoter-proximal pausing (or pausing). Pausing is the process by which RNA Polymerase II, the enzyme responsible for transcribing protein-coding genes, stalls after transcribing 30-50 nucleotides. Pausing occurs on nearly all protein-coding genes in higher eukaryotes (such as humans and the fruit fly) and it is a critical regulatory step.

My work in the lab has focused on studying a protein, called DSIF, involved in promoter-proximal pausing. DSIF and NELF cooperatively bind to Pol II to induce pausing. DSIF can bind to Pol II without NELF, but NELF binding requires the presence of DSIF, and this suggests an important role of DSIF in NELF recruitment to the Pol II elongation complex. To determine the specific region of DSIF involved in NELF recruitment, I mutated several regions of DSIF and tested the effect of that mutation on binding to NELF. If a mutated region results in impaired binding, this suggests that region is important in binding NELF.

My study found that the KOW2-3 region of DSIF is important in NELF recruitment, while the KOW4 region is dispensable for NELF recruitment. My research project furthers mechanistic insight into the regulation of promoter-proximal pausing.