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Katie Traynelis Wins AIChE Southern Regional Conference Technical Presentation Competition

Katie Traynelis - First place winner of the Technical Presentation Competition
Katie Traynelis – 1st place winner of the Southern Regional Conference Technical Presentation Competition

Katie Traynelis, a junior in chemical engineering, won first place in the Technical Presentation Competition at the 2023 AIChE Southern Regional Student Conference in Gainesville, Florida, in early March.  Katie, who is from Sevierville, Tennessee, is working with Profs. Albert Keung and Balaji Rao on her research project and is mentored by CBE Ph.D. student Alison Waldman.

Like many chemical engineers, Katie decided to study chemical engineering because of her love for chemistry, math, and physics.  In addition, her father, who obtained his M.S. in chemical engineering from our department, encouraged her to look into our program.

Katie ultimately chose chemical engineering at NC State because of the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC), the chemical engineering biomolecular concentration and the proximity to Research Triangle Park.  She really enjoys studying chemical engineering, and although she notes that it can be challenging and frustrating at times, she is excited about how the skills she is developing can be applied to biologically relevant problems.

Katie became involved in undergraduate research with Profs. Keung and Rao during the spring of her sophomore year. She is studying epigenetic modifications, which are reversible modifications made to DNA or to the histone proteins that DNA wraps around.  Her current project is focused on understanding the specificity of an epigenomic writer called p300.

This enzyme adds an acetyl group to lysine residues on histone tails.  The goal is to understand how the amino acid sequences around a lysine residue impact p300’s acetylation of the lysine. Epigenetic modifications, like acetylation, are important forms of gene regulation, so gaining a better understanding of how and why these modifications are made has therapeutic applications. Epigenomic writers, like p300, have been attached to editing complexes like dCas9 before, and her work will help design better epigenomic editors.

Katie is in the middle of collecting the majority of the data for her project. Data is collected by sorting yeast libraries based on acetylation levels and then using next-generation DNA sequencing to look at the sequences occurring in different populations. The data that she has processed so far shows enrichment of glycine directly before the lysine residue and aromatic amino acids directly after the lysine in the population of cells that is positive for acetylation.

Over the spring and summer, she will continue working in the laboratory and hopes to finish sorting her libraries and to perform all of the sequencing and data analysis. Next fall, Katie plans to apply to graduate school to obtain her Ph.D. in chemical engineering.  Her goal is to perform impactful research in synthetic biology and to one day be a professor.

In the meantime, Katie will continue her research and will represent NC State in the Technical Presentation Competition at the AIChE National Conference in the fall.

Congratulations to Katie and Good Luck!!!