I am an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Akron in Ohio. My group uses NMR and crystallography to study macromolecular complexes: proteins and RNAs bound to small molecules, peptides or other RNAs/proteins. Special emphasis is given to proteins bound to xenobiotic metals and to long non-coding RNA binding proteins involved in epigenetic regulation.
Honestly, it was the competitive stipend. At the time, I was comparing MU to other graduate schools: SUNY Stony Brook, UC Boulder, UC Santa Cruz and a couple of others. MU offered me a Molecular Biology Fellowship that was 15-20 percent higher than the graduate assistantships from those other institutions. This got my attention, and then when I gave MU Biochemistry a closer examination, I realized that the academic and research environments were similar to the best research universities in the nation. Together, the resources and intellectual questions investigated hooked me. Lastly, I had lived in Missouri all my life, and MU allowed me to remain close to my friends and family.
My studies in NMR structure determination of small RNAs provided an excellent preparation of structural analysis of a wide range of biopolymers. My mentors, Steven R. Van Doren and Frank Schmidt were extremely supportive guides for my research training. As Biochemistry departments go, it is a very large department yet very familiar and intimate. Because of this collegial atmosphere, I was able to pick up a number of other biophysical techniques that greatly broadened my approach to science.
I love to teach students how to study the structures of proteins and nucleic acids. Both at the level of undergraduate lecture and at the bench, I consider myself a mentor and colleague to my students and post-docs. It is the integration of lecture, lab and research that I love and gets me excited about each day.
As an assistant professor, I look forward to growing my research group, publishing papers of which I am proud and attaining the funds needed to investigate important questions in macromolecular structure. I am also very excited about some of my most recently established collaborations in the fields of biopolymer structure/function and biochemical biomimicry that have the potential for new product development.