Chemistry professor Tammy Dwyer, PhD, is enjoying an exciting year—and she’s bringing her students along for the ride.
In June, Dwyer’s collaborative research on expanding the DNA alphabet was published in “Nature Chemical Biology,” an online science journal. Less than one month later, she was named recipient of the 2012 Iota Sigma Pi Centennial Award for excellence in teaching.
"I would hope that students see in me a confident, happy and successful scientist and create their own path towards personal and professional fulfillment."
“I was absolutely elated—so thrilled, honored and humbled by the recognition,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer’s laboratory operates with the full participation of carefully selected student researchers. Under her instruction, students learn to work with priceless DNA samples. The data they collect can take months, or even years to analyze—hefty responsibilities for undergraduates.
“My students do the research, with me guiding them,” Dwyer said. “They then assist me with writing the work for publication and earn co-authorship on a paper.”
In addition to filling exciting roles in the laboratory, Dwyer’s student researchers have the rare privilege of working with USD’s state-of-the-art NMR instruments. Students collect spectra using the NMR spectrometer, then interpret and analyze the data.
“The NMR facility at USD rivals that at research-1 institutions, and I can think of only half a dozen undergraduate institutions that have similar instrumentation,” Dwyer said.
According to Dwyer, the NMR instruments serve to bolster her research, as well as attract potential collaborators.
"My students do the research, with me guiding them. They then assist me with writing the work for publication and earn co-authorship on a paper."
“Having these instruments at USD has propelled my research to a level I had not dreamed possible,” Dwyer said.
As she reflects on her role as instructor and mentor, Dwyer can’t help but recall the fond memories she developed during her own undergraduate research experience. She remains deeply inspired by each of her undergraduate professors.
“I remember having so much fun in the labs,” Dwyer said. “I felt like each professor was thoroughly invested in my intellectual growth and progress. I have kept in mind all of these attributes as I have developed my own style as a teacher.”
- Anne Malinoski '11