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Grace Hamilton, Ph.D.

Biology

Education

University of Washington – Seattle

Mentors

Amy Gladfelter, Ph.D.

Biography

As an undergraduate at Bates College, I struggled to choose between many interests. The result was a B.S. in Biology and Russian, with a minor in Chemistry. The most transformative part of my undergraduate education was research in the lab of Dr. Rachel Austin, culminating in an honors thesis entitled “The diversity of AlkBs: a genetic, structural, & mechanistic comparison of three little-known alkane hydroxylase enzymes.” Purifying and characterizing these enzymes, I became fascinated by the idea of proteins as molecular machines transforming their environments one reaction at a time.

Pursuing this newfound passion for proteins, I joined the Biochemistry Department of the University of Washington for my graduate work. Under the mentorship of Dr. Trisha Davis, I studied the molecular machinery of cell division. Specifically, I asked how the kinetochore–– the proteinaceous tether between DNA and microtubules–– could withstand, transmit, and sense pulling forces during mitosis. When I wasn’t using optical tweezers to physically exert pulling forces on reconstituted chains of proteins, I was becoming increasingly interested in science communication and education. I moonlighted as a science correspondent and created a biochemistry podcast called “Phosphorus.” And after defending my dissertation, “Building a functional kinetochore: from microtubule to centromere,” I spent a year teaching at North Seattle College and the University of Washington.

 

As a SPIRE scholar, I am delighted to continue teaching and to turn my attention to an enigmatic part of the cytoskeleton: septins. My post-doctoral research in Dr. Amy Gladfelter’s Lab will explore the biochemistry of these understudied, but important proteins–– including their roles in the atypical cell divisions of marine fungi. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by peers who share my goal of transforming our environment, the culture of science education and scientific research, into one that is inclusive and supportive of every young scientist.