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Dr. Kelly Theisen

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry

I received my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Ohio Wesleyan University, and then my doctorate in computational chemistry at the University of Cincinnati. After that I did two post doctoral research projects, one at Duke and one at North Carolina State University. I am passionate about inclusive and accessible teaching methods, which is important to me as a first generation student who also happens to be dyslexic. I also have fun working on active learning activities and hands-on models for my classes. I joined the SUNY Plattsburgh faculty in August 2018.

Outside of class I enjoy reading lots of books, as well as painting and photography (though I’m not particularly great at the last two). I also like spending time with my pet rabbit, Bigwig (he’s named after a character from Watership Down by Richard Adams, one of my favorite books growing up).

My research focuses on determining the mechanical stability of proteins by unfolding simulations, and how drug compounds can change this stability. The main system under study now is FtsZ, a bacterial protein that is crucial to cell division. The FtsZ protein is a possible antibiotic target, particularly for the MRSA and VRSA infections that have become so prevalent in hospitals. In the cell, FtsZ monomers form filaments that wrap around the cell circumference and then constrict to start the division process. The stability and bending properties of these long filaments have not been studied computationally yet due to the amount of processing power required. My lab uses coarse-grained simulations run on graphics cards to overcome this barrier. We are also using docking programs to investigate the binding of drug candidates to the FtsZ protein. Our future work will include simulating the effects of these drug candidates on the dynamics of the full FtsZ filament.

Kelly Theisen presents a poster with students at an ACS event

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