Anticipated graduation date: May 2023
Twitter Account: @redbrooke42
Instagram Account: @red.brooke
Research PI: Dr. Betul Kacar, Dept. of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Research Topic: Nitrogen fixation rivals the importance of photosynthesis because it makes nitrogen, an element essential to our proteins and DNA molecules, available to life on Earth. In my research, I study the evolution of biological nitrogen fixation to understand how early life affected Earth's physical environment, and in turn how that early environment impacted the evolution of life as we know it. To study "ancient" life, my lab resurrects ancestral forms of the enzyme responsible for nitrogen fixation, nitrogenase, so that we can assess its functionality in a modern lab setting and get an idea of how early life behaved. By understanding the coevolution of our planet and early life using nitrogen as a focus, we also gain a better understanding of possible biosignatures to look for on other worlds. Through pursuing the query of "Where did we come from?" by following the flow of Earth's nitrogen through the eons, we also contribute to the other age-old, humanity-defining question: "Are we alone?"
Why Are you an MCB Ambassador? Carl Sagan said it best: "When you're in love, you want to tell the world." The MCB Ambassador position seemed the perfect way for me to share my own love for molecular biology and inspire other minds to discover that love for themselves. In particular, I wanted to impart my own unique, non-medical viewpoint on MCB to showcase the diverse application of the major to potential students. Additionally, as a woman in STEM, I desired to give back by serving in a leadership position to inspire other young women like me to pursue their own dreams in biology.
What makes MCB great? There are so many applications of an MCB education! By learning about the machinery of life, MCB students learn valuable tools and critical thinking skills that are applicable to all sorts of biology-related careers. My own work in astrobiology is a prime example of just how far MCB knowledge can reach. My mind is blown every day as I learn more and more about the amazing complexity of life on its molecular and cellular scales.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love spending the majority of my free time in the ultimate laboratory: nature! My favorite outdoor activities include hiking, climbing, and paddle-boarding. My other main hobby is travel, which often pairs nicely with outdoor adventuring. When not outside, I am usually found in the theatre or the cinema. I have a special nerdy passion for superhero and old sci-fi movies, as well as thick fantasy novels, and I enjoy creative writing in those same genres to de-stress.
What outreach or service projects are you involved in?
What honors or awards have you received? Galileo Circle Award (2020)
Favorite Quote: My favorite quote tends to change from week to week...but one constant guiding phrase for me is "Adventure is out there" from the Pixar movie Up.
Publications: "One Small Step for Education" article; https://www.bmsis.org/one-small-step-for-education/