Alumna gives science students a peek at possibilities

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Like a true biophysicist, Krissy Williams ’06, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, is thinking big, while focusing on the very small.

Williams presented a lecture about her research to students and faculty members, some of whom were once professors of hers, on Tuesday in Lathrop Hall.

Krissy Williams ’06 talks about the research she is conducting as a graduate student at the University of Rochester. (Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko)

She is studying protein-RNA interactions that occur during alternative splicing using three biophysical methods, which will give her information about the binding affinity, thermodynamics, and structure of these protein-RNA interactions.

“By the end of this, I’m going to be one of maybe 50 people in the world that know this much about this protein,” laughed Williams.

The structural understanding she will have of this protein might have much larger implications.

“People are beginning to realize that structural understanding is valuable,” explained Williams. “You need it. The best example is site-specific drugs. If you don’t know the structure of what your protein looks like, how can you target a certain part of it?”

Within Williams’s lab, they have been focusing on one particular protein, TL1.

“Cancer cells don’t regulate TL1 so they don’t have that much, therefore it causes your T-cells to kill it,” Williams pointed out. “If we can find out how it binds and where it binds to, and if we can modify it so that it could still be there, it could be a possible treatment for cancer.”

Williams’s lecture was part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy weekly seminars.

Kiko Galvez, a former physics professor of Williams’s, said current students benefit by hearing about noteworthy work of alumni.

“Students can see what they can be doing and where they can be going in the future,” said Galvez. “Our majors tend to become really successful when they go out, so students should see what they could become.”

Nicky David ’09, a chemistry major, was glad to have the opportunity to listen to Williams.

“I thought it was really cool to know that she took the same classes that I’m taking and that she has developed this much,” David commented. “I find it very promising that she finds the things she learned at Colgate so useful and beneficial.”

Williams, too, was excited to be back on campus.

“I was so worried that I was not going to be able to answer their questions [during the question-and-answer session], but I actually got a really good idea from one of the professors during the discussion. He asked me a question that I had never even thought about and now I’m going to talk about it with my advisor,” she said.