I began my chemistry career at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. I had taken a chemistry class in high school and hadn't enjoyed it much. At Utah State, I was initially planning to be an engineer, but got hooked on chemistry with that first class. I changed my major immediately and took all the classes I could at USU. I also did a research project with Rick Holz, studying the mechanism of action of the aminopeptidase class of enzymes.
During the summer between earning my bachlor's degree and starting graduate school, I worked as an intern at Parke-Davis, now Pfizer, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My project involved screening several libraries of chemical compounds in the search for inhibitors of asthma pathways.
I joined the graduate program at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1997, joining the laboratory of Claudia Kent at the end of my first year. My Ph.D. thesis was entitled 'Biochemical and Structural Characterization of CTP:Phosphocholine Cytidylyltransferase from Streptococcus pneumoniae.' Basically, we identified the pathway that the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium uses to modify its cell surface with phosphocholine molecules. This modification has consequences for cell division, virulence, and drug resistance. I also participated in a pharmacology program while at UM.
In 2003, I joined the lab of Bill Dowhan at the University of Texas at Houston to study interactions between membrane proteins and lipids. We focussed on the protein lactose permease, which does some amazing acrobatics when the lipid environment is changed.