In this edition of BMB’s Alumni Spotlight, we feature Brooks Crickard, Ph.D.
Brooks is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University. He attended Purdue University for his undergraduate degree and in 2007 graduated with his degree in biochemistry. Between his time as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, Brooks studied the biochemistry of ATP dependent chromatin remodeling complexes at Southern Illinois University.
Ultimately, he chose to return to the Big Ten for his graduate studies and underwent his graduate studies at Penn State. Brooks research focus while at Penn State investigated RNA Polymerase II transcription elongation complexes. He earned his Ph.D. 2016
After earning his Ph.D., Brooks traveled to Columbia University where he trained in the area of single molecule optical fluorescence microscopy under the mentorship of Professor Eric Greene. His research investigated the mechanisms of homologous recombination. While at Columbia, Brooks was the Mark Foundation Fellow of the Damon-Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.
Brooks’ current research, at Cornell, uses single molecule imaging in combination with genetic approaches to dissect molecular mechanisms of chromosome maintenance and genomic stability. As his laboratory’s website clearly states, “We use lasers and a microscope to look at cool biology.” Brooks’ future goals are to understand how human homologous recombination enzymes function to promote the repair of DNA.
Let’s chat with Brooks, talk about his experiences while at Penn State, and catch up with what he’s been up to.
What is it that you do at Cornell University?
I am currently establishing my research program and will begin teaching a course in biochemistry next Fall. My research program asks basic questions about how proteins repair damage to DNA. We use a combination of single molecule, biochemical, and genetics to answers these questions.
What was it that made you want to come to Penn State, and BMB, to pursue your education?
It was the giant football stadium. Just kidding. I came to Penn State so that I could earn my Ph. D. in the Center for Eukaryotic Gene Regulation (CEGR). I felt like it was an amazing training environment that gave me the opportunity to work with world class faculty.
How do you feel Penn State, and BMB, prepared you for your current position or career?
I feel like the training I received has prepared me for my current position. The combined emphasis on intellectual and technical training has prepared me to train students in my own laboratory. I am very grateful for the combination of collaborative experience as well as a little do-it-yourself attitude. This training has provided a much-needed boost while trying to establish a laboratory in the middle of a global pandemic.
Did you conduct research while at Penn State? Where was your research conducted and what was its focus?
I did my research in CEGR in the laboratory of Joe Reese. There I studied how yeast RNA Polymerase II interacts with required transcription elongation factors.
Share at least one interesting/fun fact about yourself.
I met my wife Heather Feaga while in the BMMB program. We are both professors at Cornell now.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I like to go running. However, I do consider research both work and a hobby, so I spend most of my time doing that.
Advice from Brooks to future generations of scientists:
Publish your papers. Publish your papers as soon as they are ready. Make sure they are ready before you leave. To have published papers is the easiest way to get fellowships, and jobs, so publish them.