Organization: Florida State University
Personal Biography: Pam Twigg currently hails from Huntsville, Alabama, not far from her hometown of Montgomery. After attending NYSC in 1978 as an Alabama delegate, she left for Auburn University, where she earned her degree in Chemical Engineering. Part-time work as an undergraduate lab assistant at Auburn led to a strong desire to pursue a career in research, which ultimately resulted in pursuing a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While finishing up her degree, she moved to Huntsville to be with her husband, and took a job as a research assistant in the Chemistry Department of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. It was at this point that she discovered the field of structural biology and began working with protein crystallization. Her work on a NASA grant to study the physical chemistry of protein crystal growth led to a job at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where she spent the next 8 years working on structural characterization of proteins, and designing, testing, managing, and loading microgravity protein crystal growth experiments for the Space Shuttle program. At some point, the desire to direct her own research projects and answer her own questions became a driving force to return to school. She left MSFC for Florida State University and completed a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics in 2001. Now, having come full circle, she is once again employed by the University of Alabama in Huntsville, this time as a Research Assistant Professor, to direct a research effort involving the structural characterization of proteins related to the genetic disorder Huntington’s Disease using x-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. She is the mother of 2 wonderful daughters, and enjoys volunteering with their band, and school science programs.
Directed Study Topic: Structural Biology in a Post-genomic Era
In the past few years, the scientific community has been inundated with enormous amounts of information in the form of deciphered genomes of bacteria, plants, and humans. The sequence of a gene determines the order of the amino acids in the protein it codes for, but how can that information be used? Structural biologists take advantage of the physical properties of proteins in various states to uncover the three-dimensional fold, which in turn provides clues about the function of the protein. Delegates will learn some of the basics of these techniques as well as how they differ in the kind of information they deliver. The hands-on part of this directed study will involve learning to purify and crystallize proteins for use in x-ray crystallography.