About the Seminar
Unveiling the biological chemistry of polyketide biosynthetic pathways by embracing the unexplored and unexpected
Microorganisms produce structurally complex and diverse molecules with a range of medicinally relevant properties. Our undergraduate research team is interested in understanding and harnessing this remarkable biochemical feat to gain sustainable access to molecules that can better human health. In this talk, I will present how we used inferred evolutionary history to identify previously unexplored ancient, orphaned type II polyketide synthase biosynthetic gene clusters. I will share stories about how we embraced unexpected results to develop innovative methodologies to study important, transient interactions of biosynthetic proteins. I will also present how we are currently using these tools to unveil the molecular ground rules of a key biosynthetic protein: the acyl carrier protein (ACP). Finally, I will connect how this work has laid a foundation for our ongoing efforts to reconstitute the biosynthesis of type II polyketides in vitro. Our studies combine concepts and techniques spanning biochemistry, organic chemistry, bioinformatics, physical chemistry, and chemical education, and therefore I hope this talk will be of interest to a broad audience.
About the Speaker
Lou received her B.S. from Haverford College then Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at Duke University under the mentorship of Professor Kathy Franz. Being offered a postdoctoral position with Professor Chaitan Khosla at Stanford University in 2008 was one of the most transformative moments of her training. In the Khosla Lab, she developed an entirely new skillset focused on the concepts and techniques of bioorganic chemistry and chemical engineering, and found her passion for studying bacterial biosynthesis. Lou returned to Haverford College in 2013 at a member of the faculty and was recently promoted to Professor of Chemistry. Lou’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of chemistry and biology. She is enthralled with the bacteria with which she works and spends her time in lab collaborating with undergraduate students to understand how bacteria biosynthesize structurally complex and medicinally relevant molecules. Lou is also passionate about integrating original research opportunities for undergraduates into the classroom, exploring how interpersonal factors can be leveraged to build more inclusive and accessible STEM courses and training opportunities, and developing symbiotic community engagement activities. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, Cottrell Scholars Award, Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Council for Undergraduate Research Innovative Mentor Award, and ACS Rising Star Award, amongst others.