4/05/2019 Peter Durantine

MIT Biochemistry Professor to Shake, Rattle and Roll at F&M

As a teenager, people told Cathy Drennan that she most likely would never graduate high school with her dyslexia. She didn’t listen to them. 

A professor of biology and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Drennan will speak at Franklin & Marshall College for the April 11 Common Hour, and for a joint chemistry and biology talk on metalloenzymes later that day. 

On April 12, she will talk with faculty about her efforts to help educators design inclusive class experiences at a Faculty Center lunch.

For Common Hour, Drennan will discuss her higher-education research, “Is the Classroom Lecture Becoming Extinct or Simply Evolving?” Her science talk is titled “Shake, Rattle & Roll: Capturing Snapshots of Metalloproteins in Action.” 

  • Cathy Drennan, professor of biology and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will discuss her higher-education research and the science of "Metalloproteins in Action.” Cathy Drennan, professor of biology and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will discuss her higher-education research and the science of "Metalloproteins in Action.”

Her visit to campus is funded by the Jean Dreyfus Lectureship Grant for Undergraduate Institutions from the Camile and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, which also supports the research junior Angelica Camilo and sophomore Haley McAllister will do in chemistry this summer. They were selected based on their excellent past research work. 

Camilo, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, will work with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Christine Phillips-Piro using unnatural amino acids to study protein structure and tune protein function. McAllister, a chemistry major, will work with Associate Professor of Chemistry Kate Plass to understand new methods for designing complex nanoparticles.

Drennan received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Vassar College. She taught high school science and drama in Iowa before earning a doctorate in biological chemistry, studying enzymes that employ the B12 vitamin, from the University of Michigan in 1995.  

In 1999, she joined MIT’s faculty, where she focused on innovation in education and fundamental research and has been recognized for her contributions to science pedagogy. Drennan joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2006 and has been an HHMI investigator since 2008. 

"Don't listen to what anyone tells you [about] what you can or cannot do,” Drennan told a class in a 2016 lecture. “There is no dyslexia ceiling.”

Drennan was a mentor and Ph.D. adviser for Phillips-Piro when the F&M professor studied at MIT.

"Cathy Drennan’s pedagogical and science talks are consistently cited as clear and approachable for general audiences,” Phillips-Piro said. “Her passion for inclusivity in science, student mentoring and research advising is something I work to emulate as a faculty member at F&M.”

Professor Cathy Drennan’s Common Hour talk is 11:30 a.m. April 11 in Mayser Gymnasium. Her scientific talk is 4:45 p.m. April 11 in the Lisa Bonchek Adams Auditorium. Both events are open to the public. 

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