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Heather Agnew, Ph.D.

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Heather AgnewI attended Penn State as a Schreyer Scholar and a major in BMB and chemistry, where I developed interests in protein biochemistry and materials chemistry through undergraduate research.  I worked in the laboratory of Song Tan in the BMB department on a project evaluating affinity chromatography methods for efficient protein purification.  During my time in the chemistry department, I was mentored by Mary Beth Williams.

The experiences I had as an undergraduate research assistant at Penn State prepared me well for pursuing a career in scientific research.  Undergraduate research gave me the opportunity to develop laboratory skills and a creative approach toward solving scientific problems, and it supported my classroom education.  As a BMB major, presenting my research at Penn State’s Undergraduate Exhibition and a National Meeting of the American Chemical Society provided me with the experience of sharing my scientific work with others.

Faculty members in the BMB and chemistry departments were also incredibly supportive in advising my career path after Penn State.  I was awarded the Gates Scholarship, allowing me to study in the UK after I graduated from Penn State in 2003.  I received an M.Phil in chemistry from the University of Cambridge in 2005.  I then attended California Institute of Technology on an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Through its foundation in chemistry and physics, the BMB major provided me with a strong quantitative background that supported my graduate studies.  I defended my Ph.D. thesis in chemistry in 2010.  My thesis work, which was performed in the research group of James R. Heath and entitled “Rapid Construction of Protein Capture Agents with Chemically Designed Stability and Antibody-like Recognition Properties,” was recognized with the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Caltech Student Prize in 2010.

I am currently a principal research investigator at Integrated Diagnostics, a biotechnology startup company that is developing alternative protein capture agents that allow for greater precision in the development of in vitro diagnostics — and that may be of use in other applications that require specific binding molecules.