Lauren Kueffer, Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry in Professor Amy Andreotti's Lab, has been awarded the 2021-2022 Brown Graduate Fellowship. The Fellowship, which includes $10,000 in institutional funding, is awarded annually by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) and is used to support strategic university research.
BBMB is privileged to have Lauren in its Biochemistry graduate program and honored that she has been recognized by the OVPR for this award. She is a first-rate contributor to this institution as a top-notch scientific investigator, as a recruiter of prospective graduate students, as a mentor of new graduate students, and as a teacher of undergraduate students.
Lauren grew up in Waukesha in southeastern Wisconsin, and received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at UW-Stevens Point, where she had great mentors. It was there that she became interested in research and pursuing a Ph.D., and in the fall of 2017 she entered the Ph.D. Biochemistry program at Iowa State.
In the laboratory of Professor Amy Andreotti, Lauren is engaged in the discovery of small molecules that inhibit the function of a critical component of the human immune system called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK). She has developed a high-throughput protocol that will enable the screening of tens of thousands of small molecules in a search for new inhibitors of BTK and mutant BTK. Although the focus is on the development of new therapies for the treatment of immune cancers, new inhibitors of BTK may also provide relief from an over-aggressive immune response associated with Covid-19 infections.
In addition to her BTK research, Lauren also pursues research in a collaboration with Professor Thomas Baum in Plant Pathology that has potential impact on agriculture. She seeks to crystallize and determine the structure of a protein from the soybean cyst nematode. The protein is one of several made by the nematode that enables the organism to take over and feed on the plant. This would be a first instance of a structure of this type, and could open new approaches to combating nematode infestations.
Lauren finds research interesting because it has the ability to answer just about any question one may pose and she finds it rewarding to be able to gain a deep understanding of small facets of science doing research in her mentor’s lab. She also enjoys the challenge that comes along with research.
In addition to her research projects, Lauren enjoys the sense of community in BBMB. Being around like-minded people has amplified her interest in research and her colleagues have been a great resource for when a break in science talk is needed. Lauren connects with other students as a leader and peer mentor in the Biochemistry and Biophysics graduate programs Graduate Learning Community (GLC), where she assists the program with recruitment and orientation for new graduate students and facilitates meetings professional skills and explore career options for graduate graduates.
Established in 2011 and administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), the annual Brown Graduate Fellowship Program is used to advance Iowa State research in the areas of study covered by the Valentine Hammes Family and Leopold Hammes Brown Family Trust, which include science, agriculture, and space science. This fellowship was awarded in 2019-2020 to Dan Kramer (Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry in the Chen Lab) and in 2020-2021 to Ryan Andrews (Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry in the Moss Lab.) The complete list of 2021-2022 awardees.