hUMNs of Chemistry #3

portrait of Professor Erin E. Carlson

Erin Carlson

Smith Professor

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I grew up in Minnesota and went to St. Olaf College, where I majored in chemistry and obtained a concentration (minor) in Women's Studies. After graduation, I left Minnesota for a number of years as I pursued by PhD at UW Madison, postdoctoral studies at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego and finally started my faculty career at Indiana University. I was hired as an Associate Professor at UMN in 2014.

We would love to hear more about your research!
What do you hope to accomplish with this work? What is the real-world impact for the average person?

I have always been fascinated by nature and the way that organisms that we think of as "simple" can do such amazing things - from natural products biosynthesis to surviving for thousands of years in the ice to living in the hostile environment of a host. My research group focuses on understanding how bacteria can do all of these things and many more! Our goal is to identify new ways to treat bacterial infection and to more deeply understand how nature has generated tiny organisms that can do almost anything!

What courses do you teach? What can students expect to get out of your course?

Chem 4411/8411 - Introduction to Chemical Biology is a lecture course that introduced students to the functional chemical concepts from organic, analytical, and physical chemistry, as well as biochemistry, that are needed to pursue the field of chemical biology. We cover everything from DNA and RNA to proteins and mass spectrometry to super resolution microscopy and drug development. Chem 4423W - Foundations of Chemical Biology Laboratory - this course introduces students to several of the most common techniques used in the field of chemical biology, such as protein bioconjugation, solid phase peptide synthesis and protein purification.

What do you hope to contribute to the chemistry community at the University?

Excitement and passion for interdisciplinary science!

When you visit other universities, what do you love to share about our UMN community?

I love to highlight the amazing chemical biology community that we have on our campus that connects our department to many others on campus. There are 30+ groups at UMN working in the field of chemical biology, which is truly exceptional.

Tell us about an important mentor in your academic life?

My father is also a chemist and I started to tinker in his lab when I was in elementary school. His passion for science in a constant source of inspiration for me - even today he still sits down to read journals nearly every day and loves to learn as much as he can.

Tell us about an important mentee in your academic life?

I mentored a junior graduate student when I was pursuing my PhD. Before that time, I thought that I wanted to pursue a job in biotech. I really came to understand how fun it was to watch a scientist grow and mature when I had the chance to mentor another student myself.

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

I love to spend time with my son, go for walks and runs, and listen to music.

Where is your favorite spot in the Twin Cities?

Lake Harriet

Margaret Kumler headshot photograph

Maggie Kumler

Graduate Student

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I'm originally from southern California, and attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for undergrad where I recieved a B.S. in chemistry. After an REU experience at the University of Southern Mississippi, I knew I wanted to pursue grad school in the field of sustainable polymer science. The overall culture of the chem department and the research opportunities here were the driving factors for my decision to attend UMN for grad school.

Are you involved in any student groups? What inspired you to get involved?

I'm involved in Science for All, which is a grad student organization where we visit local middle schools with a small lesson about some science topic followed by a related interactive experiment that the students get to run. I got involved becasue it's reminiscient of the science fair experiments that I always loved to participate in growing up. Some of my favorite experiments we've run have been extracting DNA from strawberries and making nylon rope.

Tell us about an important mentor in your academic life?

My undergrad research lab (PJC4lyfe) and advisor were hugely influential in my academic career and my decision to attend grad school. Prof. Costanzo provided me the space to grow as an independent researcher as well as opportunities to teach, mentor, and to begin developing my scientific communication skills. His enthusiasm for science was contagious.

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

When I'm not in lab I love to be outside, including running, biking, backpacking, paddleboarding, and rock climbing. My goal is to visit all 67 state parks in Minnesota before I graduate (currently at 7/67)!

Where is your favorite spot in the Twin Cities?

Minneapolis Institute of Art