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Proteomics Hits the Syllabus, Thanks to PNNL’s Bigelow

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Most college professors never get to teach a course exactly the way they want. Biochemist and educator Diana Bigelow, 50, however, has the upper hand in the way an entire program will be run. She’s designing her own post-genomics curriculum from scratch.

“Most of us go into a faculty position and take up a program that was arrived at through various historical or evolutionary means,” says Bigelow, a former director at the University of Kansas mol-bio department whose focus is proteomics. “It may not be exactly what you want.”

Following a hand-me-down syllabus is something Bigelow doesn’t have to worry about. Since January, she has been working with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to create a postgraduate molecular biosciences program at Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus. Bigelow hopes that the program will be operational in 2003.

“We’re now in the post-genomics era,” she says. “Even though we have DNA sequences for more than half of the genes, we don’t know what they code for in terms of protein function.”

Since Bigelow is known for calcium regulation research, calcium signaling will be one of the areas that students will be able to choose from. But the proteome, she argues, remains “the key deal” to elucidating protein pathways. The chance to investigate this at PNNL couldn’t be more thrilling.

“Coming to a national lab is really exciting for me scientifically because they have very impressive facilities,” Bigelow says. “We’re in an era where high-throughput computer facilities and capabilities are really going to be important.”

— Jasmin Chua

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