Growing up in the San Luis Valley region of Colorado, which has the silver mining district of Creede located nearby in the San Juan Mountains, I developed an interest in rocks, minerals and geology as a child. I originally enrolled “in-state” at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) in Golden, CO with the intention of completing a degree in Mining Engineering. I was an active member of the Beta Phi chapter of the Beta Theta Pi social fraternity during this time and had an assortment of part-time jobs including running a car wash at a gas station and working at a Pizza Hut restaurant. I also participated in an undergraduate internship in thermophysical property modeling at the National Bureau of Standards (now called NIST) in Boulder, CO (James F. Ely, advisor). My career interests and goals changed and I completed my B.Sc. degree in Chemical and Petroleum Refining Engineering at CSM in 1988. I then applied to several graduate programs with an expressed interest in biotechnology and completed a Ph.D. in Chemical and Fuels Engineering at the University of Utah in 1993. My doctoral thesis research involved the study of stability and adsorption behavior of proteins at the air-water interface, under the guidance of Joseph D. Andrade, Bioengineering Dept. and Timothy Oolman and J. J. Magda, Chemical Engineering Dept.
This was followed by a 1-year postdoctoral internship at the University of Delaware and the Du Pont Experimental Station, where I investigated methods for the separation of pathogenic bacteria from food samples for diagnostic purposes, using techniques of microbiology and colloid and surface science. (Advisors Eric W. Kaler and Stanley Sandler).
I then worked as a postdoctoral fellow from 1994-1997 at Genetics Institute, Inc. (now Wyeth), a Boston-area biotechnology company, where I worked with the Process Development, Immunology, and Molecular Biology and Gene Expression research groups, under the guidance of John McCoy, Zhijian Lu and others. During this time I gained training and experience in molecular biology, microbiology, immunochemistry and protein chemistry techniques. My research efforts involved exploration of new concepts for recombinant protein purification by affinity chromatography, including use of thioredoxin fusion proteins, the FliTrx bacterial flagellin-thioredoxin peptide display system, and a fusion peptide that is biotinylated in vivo by E. coli bacteria.
This industrial experience was followed by an academic postdoc from 1997-2001 in the Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology departments at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. During this time I participated in a National Science Foundation Research Training Grant Program in Microbiology and Enzymology in the laboratories of James G. Ferry and C. Robert Matthews. I investigated the catalytic function and biophysical properties of a trimeric gamma-class carbonic anhydrase enzyme (Cam) isolated from an archaeal anaerobic microorganism, Methanosarcina thermophila , which is also a moderate thermophile that thrives at 50 deg C. Some interesting discoveries I made during this time include a novel proton transport pathway in Cam involving a glutamate residue and the ability of Cam to use an iron (Fe 2+ ) ion instead of zinc (Zn 2+ ) as the cofactor essential for catalysis.
I joined Western Michigan University in 2001 as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Biological Sciences and Chemistry departments. My research interests involve various aspects of protein chemistry, including enzymology,
protein engineering, molecular evolution and recognition and
self-assembly of proteins. I currently collaborate with various
other faculty on various protein and cell membrane research