Kelly Biette (Brighton, Colo.), a member of the Seattle University volleyball team, recently spent 10 days in Switzerland for the Sixth International Conference on the Hsp90 Chaperone Machine. Biette, the president of the Seattle University Student-Athlete Advisory Council and a member of the Western Athletic Conference SAAC, made a presentation based on a project she has been working on for the past two years with Dr. Patrick Murphy, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing. Besides the conference, which was held in Les Diablerets, Biette spent a day in Geneva and a day in Lucerne. Below is a description about the conference and its impact in Biette's own words.
A really important part of science is presenting your work and talking about your research with other scientists. It's part of how scientists work as a group to solve problems that are larger than any one group or individual can do by themselves. We participated in one of these conversations with researchers from across the world who are all studying the same protein. The name of the protein is hsp90, and it is found in nearly every cell of every plant and animal and they can't live without it. In our lab at Seattle U, we study how hsp90 helps with intracellular communication and impacts how certain drugs (glucocorticoids) can be used to help treat many common diseases (asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders). My specific presentation focused on how hsp90 can aid in protein folding, which is an essential biochemical activity.
The research conference we attended was The Sixth International Conference on the Hsp90 Chaperone Machine. It was held in Les Diablerets, Switzerland, in a valley in the middle of the Swiss Alps. The conference organizer, Dr. Dider Picard, is based in Geneva and has hosted the conference in Les Diablerets for the last several years. Approximately 200 scientists who all study hsp90 were in attendance, including several famous researchers who have recently published in the most prestigious scientific journals. While some conferences involve thousands of scientists studying many different topics, one of the unique things about this meeting was it was a relatively close group with a shared objective and purpose which allowed for lots of discussion and collaboration. We left the meeting with several potential future research plans with other labs.
One of the things that makes Seattle University unique is the opportunities it provides students as undergraduates to be involved in multiple activities at a very high level. For me, this has involved Division I athletics, community service, and molecular pharmacology research. It might be surprising to realize that many of the traits necessary to excel in athletics are the same traits required to be a great scientist. For example, a strong work ethic and the ability to transfer what you've learned into practice, as well as being a committed member of a team are all qualities that can help make someone successful both on the court and in the lab. Our lab currently has three varsity athletes (Liana Heberer, Women's Soccer and Brianna Guerrero, Softball) and it's great to work with other people that have a shared commitment to excelling both at their sport and in our research environment.