Emily Bengson

Emily BengsonHometown: Minot, North Dakota

Degree pursuing: Nutrition MS

Adviser: Dr. Moon-Suhn Ryu

Research focus:

Iron is essential for proper cell function and development, serving as a cofactor for many metalloproteins. However, accumulation of free intracellular iron increases reactive oxygen species (ROS) due to iron’s ability to accept and donate electrons. Despite compensatory responses of iron genes, increased labile iron can result in increased ROS, which ultimately leads to a newly discovered form of iron-dependent cell death, ferroptosis. Neurodegeneration has been associated with brain iron accumulation and, more recently, ferroptosis. PCBP1 functions as a cytosolic iron chaperone, which facilitates the incorporation of intracellular iron into ferritin. Thus, my research is focused on PCBP1 as a potential, protective regulator of ferroptosis, particularly in a hippocampal neuronal cell-line sensitive to iron toxicity.

How did you become interested in nutrition?

I became interested in nutrition at a young age due to my involvement in athletics. I had many coaches that strongly valued nutrition, and I learned to appreciate the benefits I experienced while fueling my body properly. I originally planned on fulfilling dental school prerequisites with my nutrition degree, however shortly after beginning the program I fell in love with the idea of working as a dietitian.

Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?

I chose to attend the University of Minnesota because of the size and diversity of the student population, as well as its location here in the Twin Cities. I also valued the outstanding academics and opportunities the U of M has to offer.

How does your research tie into the research being done in your adviser's lab?

My advisor’s lab focuses on molecular mineral nutrition, specifically looking at iron and zinc. My research is focusing on how iron dysregulation can lead to cell death in a newly discovered mechanism called ferroptosis.

Future plans

I will be finishing my Nutrition MS in the Spring of 2019. I will then complete the University of Minnesota Dietetic Internship through the Emily Program, in the hope of becoming a registered dietitian. My long-term career goals are to be determined, but I enjoy working with people. I would love to spread kindness and spark people’s passion for health in whatever career I find myself.