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Without the advancements in biological and biochemical knowledge made in the last 80 years my father my sister and I like many others would be dead My familys propensity for autoimmune diseases was enough to motivate me to start my research at an early age when at 14 years old I began doing work for a startup company making disease models using zebrafish Child labor laws aside seeing targeted cells light up under the fluorescent microscope before even taking high school biology redefined what I knew as possible and I was quickly hooked While my research focus and passion for solving complex biological problems has developed dramatically since that time the central idea of using our understanding of the natural world to help us live in a more sustainable and enjoyable way has remained steadfastI took this central goal with me to Washington University in Saint Louis where I was fortunate to join Professor Robert Blankenships laboratory My initial motivation for joining Professor Blankeships team was based upon my interest in bioenergy but after a very short period of time I became enthralled with unraveling the molecular details of bacterial photosynthesis My first project in the lab on which we are currently writing a manuscript was to purify photosynthetic reaction centers from the purple bacteria Rhodobacter sphaeroides with the goal of making them the first membrane-bound photosynthetic complex to be analyzed using an emerging method known as native mass spectrometry This new technique can preserve the near native structure of protein complexes during their introduction into the gas phase allowing for the determination of subunit and cofactor stoichiometry oligomeric states and low-resolution structural information all in a single experiment While I continued to work with mass spectrometry for a number of smaller projects and was excited by our results and the knowledge I had acquired I was also eager to expand my research toolbox to include additional skills such as cloning
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