BMB Features: Kaitlin Cole
The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to be called home to some of the most outstanding undergraduate students in higher education. These students display a high level of dedication, not only in furthering their education but in their desire to be on the frontlines of scientific discovery.
Meet Kaitlin Cole, a senior graduating with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and a minor in global health. Kaitlin, a native of Center Valley, Pennsylvania, developed her interest in STEM while a student at Southern Lehigh High School. Although her particular interest was in biology, she chose a different path when planning her undergraduate career. “I thought biochemistry seemed interesting,” said Kaitlin. “I ended up getting lucky and found it to be something I really enjoyed.” Because both of her parents attended and graduated from Penn State, she was raised as a Penn Stater and attended many University events and activities such as football games. She liked that Penn State was a large university that offered many opportunities for her to get involved in student organizations and undergraduate research.
Kaitlin has taken full advantage of the organizations and research opportunities Penn State provides. She is currently an undergraduate researcher working under the leadership of assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Timothy Meredith. Research in the Meredith lab is focused on the identification of enzymes responsible for specific lipoprotein (globular proteins located on the surface of bacterial cell membranes) acylation patterns. The lab investigates why bacteria have evolved specific lipoprotein chemotypes, and in turn how these structural changes influence detection by a receptor called TLR2 (a toll-like receptor that plays a role in the immune system). Kaitlin’s research investigates the roles of several Staphylococcus aureus genes and their impact on antibiotic resistance.
Through her experiences in research and her love of service, Kaitlin has developed a strong passion for both medicine and social justice. She has taken part in the Penn State Alternative Breaks Program, which provides a variety of opportunities for students to learn more about themselves, others, and the world around them, through service. First engaging with the program as a participant, and later as a group leader, she has taken part in several projects focused on social justice topics such as environmental justice, food insecurity, and homelessness. In 2019 Kaitlin was selected to serve as a member of the program’s board.
Kaitlin has also studied abroad in South Africa, as part of her global health minor, where she had the opportunity to both observe and work in a number of clinics and medical settings. Also, as a volunteer at Mount Nittany Medical Center, Kaitlin works with healthcare professionals in discharging patients as well as the delivery of items such as equipment, newspapers, and flowers.
Kaitlin’s experiences at Penn State have had a significant impact and influence on her future career plans. After graduation she will be serving a one-year term as a “Volunteer In Service To America” in the AmeriCorps VISTA Program, a national service program that works within communities to help eradicate poverty. After her term with AmeriCorps Cole hopes to attend medical school.