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Graduate Student Highlight: Taylor Zaniewski

10 May 2021
Taylor Zaniewski

Each week, the Department of Chemistry highlights graduate students who are doing great work around the department. In this installment of our highlight series, we are featuring Taylor Zaniewski, who is a fourth-year student advised by Professor William Hancock of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Taylor studies the chemomechanical mechanism of kinesin motor proteins, specifically the kinesin-3 family. Kinesin-3 is a neuronal transport protein that uses ATP to generate energy and perform conformational changes that promote movement along microtubule tracks in what looks like a person taking a step. Using stopped flow kinetics and single molecule tracking, Taylor deduces the rate of each conformational transition within the stepping cycle. From these rates, Taylor then determines a model of the stepping cycle and therefore interprets the different movement properties (velocity, distance, force generation, etc.) that are characteristic of each of the fourteen kinesin families. 

This week, we met virtually with Taylor to discuss her life in and outside of the lab! Please enjoy our interview with Taylor Zaniewski.
Question: How did you get interested in chemistry?

Answer: I became interested in chemistry during high school. It was the most fascinating subject to me because there is always something new to learn and discover. I knew that I would never be bored in this field! Chemistry is the foundation of everything. I like to think of atoms as a sort of infinite puzzle to create the most intricate molecules and therefore, everything beautiful in this world. 

Q: Do you have any pets?

A: I have three cats. The youngest is a crazy little grey tabby named Radium, who is one-year-old. The others are two beautiful black cats, brother and sister, named Coco and Kya. They are sixteen-years-old and have been with me for almost as long as I can remember. 

Q: What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?  Do you have any hobbies?

A: I love to spend a day crafting! I could spend hours painting, sewing, crocheting, drawing, and sculpting. Over the holidays, I ran out of people to make hats and scarves for so I made a little santa/elf hat for each of my cats and the family dogs. (Yes, I really got that bored over quarantine!)

Q: What’s your dream vacation? 

A: I have always dreamed of a trip to Greece. I had a big obsession with Greek mythology when I was younger and can't imagine anything better than visiting the cities from the stories. Also, spending a week or two basking in the sun on the Greek islands would be a welcome reprieve from the grey skies of Pennsylvania.

Thanks to Taylor for these excellent and thoughtful answers! We hope you enjoyed this interview. Stay tuned for more graduate student highlights in the weeks to come!