Hi and welcome to my bio page. My name is Franky and I’m a graduate student in the lab of Dan Kahne. Our lab is broadly interested in studying the protein machines that build bacterial cell envelopes, whether they are the double-membraned Gram-negative variety or the Gram-positive variety with thick peptidoglycan cell walls. I study a machine in the Gram-negative outer membrane that folds and inserts proteins into the asymmetrical lipid bilayer. Understanding the functions of such essential bacterial machines could enable design of better antibiotics against multidrug resistant infections. At a more fundamental level, study of the machines that construct the bacterial cell envelope addresses basic questions about protein folding, lipid trafficking, and how proteins overcome thermodynamic and kinetic barriers when operating in membranes.
I didn’t always study proteins. Before coming to Harvard, I attended Williams College. I declared a major in Biology and initially I planned to study genetics or evolution. I first tried summer research on campus in a behavioral genetics lab working on fruit flies. Then I spent the following summer in Bar Harbor, Maine working in a mouse lab interested in the heritable and environmental factors that influence population sex ratios of different hybrid strains. Once I came back to campus and took classes in biochemistry, my interests started to shift. While I completed my senior thesis on gene flow and speciation in a cricket hybrid zone, I finished a minor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, building my knowledge of molecular machines before I could put it to the test in graduate school.
If I’ve learned anything from my various research experiences, it’s that you can’t always predict what you will learn or how your work may change over time. I’m grateful that while I find my way through graduate school, I have supportive lab mates and I belong to a community that appreciates scientists with a variety of research interests and backgrounds. When I’m not working at the bench, I enjoy chatting with my lab mates over lunch, taking walks, and caring for houseplants. It might not sound like much, but I would rather live simply than let life move too fast.
Pronouns: They/Their/Theirs, She/Her/Hers, He/Him/His