Maria Boftsi
Maria Boftsi, a Ph. D candidate, stands near her lab station in the Pintel Lab in Bond LSC. | photo by Allison Scott, Bond LSC

By Allison Scott | Bond LSC

Change is hard. Especially when you’re comparing weather, like Maria Boftsi, a second year Ph.D. student in the Pintel Lab at Bond LSC, did.

From the sunny skies of a small town in Northern Greece, where she’s originally from, to the contrastingly harsh winter of mid-Missouri, Boftsi was in for a lot of change when she came to Mizzou.

“The summer after my third year of undergraduate I came to work in the Sarafianos Lab. Then I went back to Greece to finish my bachelor’s degree,” Boftsi said. “When he moved to a different university, I joined the Pintel Lab about six months ago.”

In the Pintel lab, Boftsi studies parvovirus interactions with the host genome. This virus is among the smallest in terms of DNA.

“We study the parvovirus Minute Virus of mice, or MVM,” Boftsi said. “MVM infection leads to a sustained DNA damage response in cells, which the virus exploits to enhance its replication.”

The replication process is anything but simple. Boftsi uses previous work to better understand this aspect of the virus life cycle.

“Recent studies in our lab have shown that the virus establishes replication centers at specific sites of the cellular genome,” Boftsi said. “I’m trying to investigate the role of viral proteins on virus-host interactions.”

Once the lab does that, they’ll be able to apply what they’ve learned to future projects.

“Parvoviruses are important pathogens and cause infections in many animal species,” Boftsi said. “Our work can provide important insights into virus-host cell interactions in general.”

That kind of impact is what allowed Boftsi’s original interest in science to grow.

“I first got into research because of a biology class I had in high school,” Boftsi said. “Then I realized how amazing it is to study something closely and learn the details.”

And the curiosity she’s developed is a driving factor in her decision to keep her education going.

“I want to do a postdoc,” Boftsi said. “I really want to continue research.”

Even though being thousands of miles away from home is hard, Boftsi has grown from the experience, and she’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had thus far.

“It’s been great. I really like it here,” Boftsi said. “The environment is amazing, and the people are so friendly and helpful.”