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Research Roadblock Helps Unlock Mysteries

November 2016


Midway through her pursuit of a PhD in biochemistry, Rebecca Plimpton hit a complete dead end with her research. Rather than quit, she decided to throw out all of her data and start over, and thanks to her perseverance, Plimpton and her faculty mentor have unlocked some mysteries behind “G proteins.” These proteins control how cells respond to stimuli such as sight, taste, and smell.

College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences student Plimpton says that being mentored has increased the relevancy of her education. “Hands-on training from faculty shaped my career desires and gave me the confidence and skills I needed to succeed as a grad student,” she says. “Because of my experiences in the lab, I was able to generate robust data and relevant findings; I learned how to think like a scientist.”

For this study Plimpton and Professor Barry Willardson collaborated with Jose Valpuesta’s lab in Madrid, Spain, to research with precision microscopes how G proteins function, which will help to provide a framework for the development of pharmaceuticals to treat diseases linked to G-protein malfunctions. Their work appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the top-ranked science journals in the world.

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