I have always been passionate about the environment, but only when I became a protein engineer did I feel equipped to develop technologies that could improve the sustainability of our society. Although I am a protein engineer by vocation, I am formally trained as a chemical engineer. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 2017 and my PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2023, both in chemical engineering.
My thesis work was conducted in the lab of K. Dane Wittrup at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and focused on the use and adaptation of protein engineering technologies for cancer immunotherapy. I acquired extensive experience in yeast display, protein expression and purification, cell culture, mutational analysis, multicolor flow cytometry, and mouse models. My thesis elucidated the mechanism of anti-CTLA-4 antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors that revolutionized cancer treatment and won the 2018 Nobel Prize.
I was also part of two collaborations utilizing enzyme engineering for cancer immunotherapy. The first was the development of an enzyme-fusion therapy for targeted killing of regulatory T cells. The second was the development of a yeast display library and screening protocol for directed evolution of the cleavage motif of a serine protease. These projects provided me with skills necessary for this project and shaped both my excitement about enzymes and my belief that they will be an essential part of a sustainable society.
I just started as a postdoctoral researcher in the Enzyme Engineering and Structural Biology group led by Ditte Welner at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Biosustain). This training will serve as a bridge between my doctoral research and my aspirations of leading my own research group focused on engineering enzymes for addressing sustainability-related issues.