Jessica Collins, PhD Candidate

Hometown: Worcester, MA

Degree: PhD, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Why did you choose to attend WPI?
I came to WPI as an undergraduate (class of 2004). I mostly chose WPI because I wanted to receive my doctoral training from my advisor, who was also my MQP advisor as an undergrad. I knew that by choosing this lab, and this school, I would leave here not only with the specific knowledge required of my degree, but with the proper training to be a successful researcher after graduation.

How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, been beneficial to you during your time at WPI?
As part of my graduate training, I have had the opportunity to collaborate and work with many other scientists at all levels--other PIs, postdocs, other graduate students, and undergrads working in our lab. This exemplifies WPI's philosophy of Theory and Practice--scientists at all levels are encouraged to contribute and are valuable members of a research team.

What do you think are WPI’s greatest strengths?
I feel that WPI's greatest strengths lie in its faculty. Since beginning my graduate study, I have had occasion to speak with and collaborate with faculty from both my department and from others. Their level of commitment to helping students, whether on an academic, research, or on a personal level, is to be commended. I have yet to come across a faculty member who did not try to help me succeed, either professionally or personally.

How have the professors in your department impacted your studies and your life?
I honestly can't single out a single professor. Besides my advisor, Jose Arguello, I have received help or support from numerous faculty members here, both as a graduate student and an undergrad: Jim Dittami, Kris Wobbe, Dave Adams, Joe Duffy, Uma Kumar--the list goes on and on.

What are your research projects?
I work in the Arguello lab, where we study the role of P1B-type ATPases--enzymes that transport heavy metals across membranes coupled with ATP hydrolysis. Traditionally, these enzymes have been thought to function primarily in metal homeostasis, keeping intracellular concentrations below toxic levels. Recently, it has been become clear that in pathogenic bacteria, many of these enzymes have alternative roles. My project aims to elucidate the roles these enzymes play in metal loading of secreted metalloproteins that contribute to pathogen survival throughout the infection process.

What do you hope to do when you graduate? What would be your ideal job?
After graduation, I plan to stay in academia and someday run my own lab. I plan on extending the knowledge and experience I gain during my doctoral training and extend it to studying the role of copper mishandling in neurodegenerative dise

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