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Graduate Student Profile
Kathryn Tiller
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Kathryn Tiller

Hometown: Reston, VA, USA
Undergraduate Study:  University of Virginia, B.S. Chemical Engineering, 2012
Degree(s) Sought: Ph.D. Chemical Engineering
Department: Chemical & Biological Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Peter Tessier
Expected year of graduation: 2017

Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.

I am working to design antibodies against the protein related to Parkinson’s disease, alpha-synuclein (aSyn). My lab previously designed single domain antibodies against aSyn by grafting hydrophobic regions into one of the binding loops on the antibody, called a gammabody.  However, the binding affinities of these gammabodies are insufficient compared to what will be necessary to be effective in the body. I am taking multiple approaches to increase the affinity of these antibodies and to increase their inhibitory activity against fibril formation of aSyn.  This research is important to me because I have known several victims of Parkinson’s disease and it pains me that there is no cure for this devastating disease. I am inspired each day that maybe one day my work can be of use to a patient.

What are your hobbies and interests?

When I’m not in the lab I enjoy going on long runs. Troy and the surrounding Capitol Region have beautiful paths for running and biking. However, when it’s cold or raining I like to bake cookies for my lab mates and friends.

What made you decide to attend Rensselaer?

I chose to enroll at Rensselaer because of the many exciting research opportunities in my field, and several of the research groups at RPI fit the very specific path that I wanted to pursue.  In addition to interesting research activity, papers are continuously and consistently published in well-respected journals. The faculty, junior and senior, are noticeably excited about their research.

What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?

The graduate community at RPI is fantastic.  Most students maintain a good balance between work and play. I feel comfortable talking through hurdles on my research project with any of my colleagues, and we also know how to have fun after a long day in lab.

What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?

Rensselaer has amazing people (faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students), which should be an important factor in your Graduate School choice.  These people will help you through your degree. In addition to great people, RPI has amazing facilities for you to conduct world-class research.  Figure out what factors are important to you; these two were at the top of my list, and they were ultimately why I chose RPI.

What are your plans following graduation?

After I finish my Ph.D., I would like to conduct research for a company in the pharmaceutical industry.  I would like to continue biochemical and molecular biology work, and perhaps remain in the field of amyloidogenic proteins.


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