Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship Awarded to BME Postdoctoral Researcher

Helen Hobbs receives the Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship.

April 24, 2023 - Biomedical engineering postdoctoral researcher Helen Hobbs received the Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship to support her research on protein evolution, a building block for advancing therapeutics for diseases and synthesizing new drugs and biofuels. Hobbs is one of 24 recipients, and the fellowship funds her work for three years with $200,000.

Hobbs conducts research in Chang Liu’s synthetic evolution laboratory on the evolution of two subunits of enzyme complex tryptophan synthase, TrpA and TrpB. Each subunit is only active with its partner so as TrpA and TrpB adapt to challenges like new temperatures, they must acquire mutations that maintain their communication ability. Hobbs uses continuous evolution system OrthoRep to evolve independent proteins to become dependent on one another as a model to study the connection between TrpA and TrpB and the evolution of complexes like tryptophan synthase.

“OrthoRep can provide us with large datasets of proteins evolved under different conditions that we can analyze to try to answer difficult questions about protein evolution,” said Hobbs. “I plan to couple high-throughput evolution with the structural biology, biophysics and biochemistry I specialized in during my graduate work.”

– Lilith Christopher