Fort Collins, Colorado
B.S. in Biology and Zoology, with a Chemistry minor, from Colorado State University; M.S. in Biochemistry, also at CSU; Ph.D. in Marine Biology and Ecology from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.
How did your varied set of degrees bring you to the Coon lab?
While working as a technician at the CSU Proteomics and Metabolomics Facility, the university’s mass spectrometry core facility, I realized that mass spectrometry was underutilized in many areas of biology. I liked the idea of applying MS techniques to help answer research questions in those areas, which led me to pursue a Ph.D. in marine biology. Much remains to be elucidated about how fish survive in an inhospitable environment like seawater, and MS-based proteomics offers tools for dissecting the molecular mechanisms that help fish process seawater and survive. It was while working on this issue that I discovered I had a serious interest in method development—something the Coon lab is famous for. So, when I was fortunate enough to obtain funding for a post-doctoral traineeship through the Computation and Informatics in Biology and Medicine (CIBM) program at UW–Madison, I jumped at the opportunity to join the Coon Group.
“When I was fortunate enough to obtain funding for a post-doctoral traineeship… I jumped at the opportunity to join the Coon Group.”
What does your work at the Coon lab entail?
One of my two main projects involves finding ways to speed up activated ion electron transfer dissociation (AI-ETD). A lot of work done by other people in the lab has shown that this strategy is successful for a lot of different applications, but the speed of this technology still falls well behind other fragmentation methods. I’ve been doing some preliminary work on optimizing reaction conditions, as well as looking at hardware modifications, to make AI-ETD more efficient.
Through the CIBM, I also work more directly on method development for biomedical applications, specifically for the analysis of ovarian cancer tumors. Our goal is to develop new methods that allow for comprehensive investigations of the proteins in these tumors, both before and after chemotherapy treatment. There has been a lot of genomics research focusing on cancer cells, but proteomic investigations are lagging behind due to several inherent issues with analysis of proteins. However, as proteins are the functional units of cells, we really need a much deeper understanding of what’s happening in cancer cells at the protein level, and that’s where the Coon lab comes in. Working closely with clinical researchers in oncology, we are designing analytical methods that take full advantage of recent advances in instrumentation, sample preparation, and bioinformatics. It’s exactly the kind of project that benefits from the culture of collaboration that the Coon lab fosters: on top of our external collaborators, everyone in the lab asks questions of each other, and takes full advantage of the varied expertise available – ranging from biology to chemistry, bioinformatics, and instrumentation – to work towards answering difficult questions, together.
Earn your Ph.D. with us
The Coon Group is always on the lookout for new members. Professor Coon accepts students from several UW-Madison doctoral programs including Chemistry, the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), and Cellular & Molecular Pathology.