Emily Wilkerson

Research Associate, University of North Carolina

hailing from

From all over: born in New Mexico, grew up in Seattle, then ended up in North Carolina for part of high school.


PhD in Analytical Chemistry (2017); B.S. in Chemistry from University of North Carolina, with a minor in math (2013)

Why University of Wisconsin and the Coon lab?

I was drawn to UW because all of the students I met on my visit seemed so happy, and because there were so many collaborations—not just within the department but also across the university, and even with outside collaborators. When I was looking for grad schools I knew I was interested in bioanalytical chemistry and mass spectrometry. There are four groups who do great work in mass spectrometry at UW. After meeting with Professor Coon, the lab just seemed like a great fit. The students are motivated, and it has a great track record.

” I was drawn to UW because all of the students I met on my visit seemed so happy…”

What was the focus of your PhD research?

My research at the Coon lab focused on biological applications of mass spectrometry, specifically hematology. I was funded through the T32 NIH training grant research in hematology led by Dr. Sheehan. I applied mass spectrometry to look at gamma carboxylation of coagulation factor VII and the differences between recombinant protein and plasma-derived protein. I also worked on characterizing the eosinophil proteome, as well as several collaborations with the Pagliarini lab.

Can you describe your new position?

One reason I was drawn to the Proteomics Core at UNC was its relatively small size—me, a technician, and a director. It has a strong base but also a lot of room for growth: I was excited about being part of its expansion. We provide a wide variety of services to academic institutions internal to UNC and nationwide, as well as to private companies. Some customers may want a simple one-protein analysis, using MS as a stepping stone to a different line of research rather than a focus. We also do more complex samples and top-down analysis, and I work on everything from sample preparation to data analysis.

It’s been interesting to see how other scientists think about MS and proteomics outside of a graduate school environment that was really steeped in that technology and to consult with customers to design projects suited to their research needs. At the same time, I still get to enjoy working with a lot of different groups and projects. We learn about all the work our customers are doing, which feels similar to the experience of engaging with the many collaborations that the Coon group maintains. That was one of the most exciting parts of grad school for me and continues to be an exciting part of working in a core facility as another area in academia.

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.