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Billie Heard

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Seattle, Washington
Chemistry and French
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Study Abroad:
Strasbourg, France
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
Anything with Chocolate
Best Adjective to Describe You:

In 10 words or less, why should a student want to be involved in this department?
Fantastic faculty, riveting courses, and inspirational peers.

What initially drew you to this department?  What keeps you coming back?
I loved chemistry and biology almost equally but decided that the microscopic side of things was more interesting to me. In this department, I can perform experiments on a molecular level that still pertain to biological systems.

What’s your biggest piece of advice to first years and sophomores in this department?
Persevere! Each course is not always harder than the previous. In fact, I find that the opposite is often true. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and shines brightest in different classes. As a scientist, I’ll put it this way: if your four-year education at K is a reaction energy diagram, you may occasionally find yourself in a rather deep well that requires more energy to overcome the barrier and move forwards to an ultimately more favorable position.

How does your department connect to your other interests and activities?
I’m a dancer, and I’ve always been fascinated with the human body and how it works. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology allows me to make connections between biochemical concepts and processes that occur in the body.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned at K?
I think that the most valuable thing anyone can learn in college is how to manage your time, both with academics and extracurricular activities. You can get a taste of that in high school, but when you’re living on your own, it’s all on you. There’s no one else around to remind you of what you should be doing instead of procrastinating. I think that’s the biggest thing that’s helped me mature since I’ve entered college.

What has been your favorite class at K?  Why?
I think my favorite class at K was Calculus 3. I took it in the fall of my sophomore year at 8:30 in the morning, but I never missed that class. The professor was Dr. Barth, one of the greatest professors at K. He made the class so funny and exciting, I always had a good time. It wasn’t even required for my major, but it was highly recommended for science students considering graduate school.

What is your SIP?
I am working at the University of Washington in Seattle in an Analytical and Biophysical Chemistry laboratory. Briefly, I am taking gas-phase solutions of a simple, multi-domain, unfolded protein, covering them in positive charges, removing these charges one by one, and then recording how long it takes for the proteins to travel through an instrument. The proteins with more positive charges on them are more unfolded due to repulsive forces, and the more unfolded proteins take longer to travel through the instrument because they have a larger surface area in contact with the gas molecules in the instrument. In these experiments, proteins with different charge states seem to fold to different degrees. If we can find a pattern in this behavior, we might be able to better understand how a protein folds into one specific conformation to carry out its function.

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
Right after graduating, I am planning on attending graduate school for a Biochemistry PhD. Ultimately, I would like to work in Research and Development for a Biotechnology company on the west coast.

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