What is FUNG4L?
Fungal means “of or pertaining to a fungus” which makes this lab the fungal lab, as we study fungi.
Or you can read it as fun gal, where “fun” means “a source of enjoyment… amusing… excited… playful… diversion” and “gal” is informal for girl.
As I see it, my lab is about studying fungi, having fun, and I try to be a fun gal!
It’s also my license plate, for all of those reasons (and because I’m a big nerd).
Where was Dr. Reese before StLCOP?
I grew up in Cooperstown, New York (a town of about 2500 people) where the baseball Hall of Fame is located.
I attended The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio where I was a chemistry major and a music minor. For my senior thesis, I studied small molecule x-ray crystallography with Virginia Pett. My project was to determine the 3D structure of a chemical that was a mimic for vitamin B12.
After I got my B.A. (Wooster is focused on the liberal arts tradition and does not grant B.S. degrees), I worked for Habitat for Humanity for an entire year in North Carolina. My major role there involved public speaking to educate people about the benefits of Habitat for the future homeowner and the volunteers. I also helped match volunteers with projects, screened potential homeowners, made site visits, and did a fair amount of building!
I attended the University of Minnesota graduate program for Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics to get my Ph.D. and study protein x-ray crystallography with Leonard J. Banaszak. There I compared members of a protein family that had a similar overall structure but bound different fatty acids. Based on those comparisons, I made mutations in the DNA that coded for one of the proteins to try to make it bind fatty acids more like the other one. I then expressed these proteins and solved their crystal structures.
I found that although I liked teaching crystallography, I didn’t want to sit at the computer all day to do structure refinement. I then went to Washington University School of Medicine to work in the lab of Tamara Doering in the Department of Molecular Microbiology for postdoctoral work. The lab was interested in how the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans makes and attaches its infectious polysaccharide coating (capsule). My focus was how it sticks to the cell, and my work determined that capsule binding requires a special cell wall sugar called alpha-1,3-glucan.
I had been interested in teaching in a small liberal arts college ever since I attended The College of Wooster for my own undergraduate work. In 2004 I began at Cedar Crest College. I was impressed by the communication, breadth, and depth within the biology department faculty and programs. The fact that Cedar Crest was a women’s college was something special. I have always been interested in issues of science access for all and have been particularly supportive of women in science. I was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2010 at Cedar Crest and I enjoyed my time there.
I joined the StLCOP faculty in 2015 to return to St. Louis, have new adventures, teach in the same town as my husband, and join the exciting and expanding StLCOP program.
Does she have life beyond teaching and research?
I’d like to think so, but it is just as crazy! My husband, Dr. Jeramia Ory (a biochemistry professor at StLCOP), and I have three daughters that keep them on their toes at home. Outside of science, I like music. I play French horn and I sing, although lately my most musical work is in entertaining my children with various silly songs. If I ever take a break from work and the kids, I like scrapbooking (it is kind of like keeping a lab notebook but more fun) and gardening.