Katie Berry Awarded Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship
The reach of Katie’s work extends far beyond the gates of Mount Holyoke. Her contributions to the intellectual life of the college, together with her care for her students, both in the lab and in the classroom, make Mount Holyoke a better place.
All living cells contain ribonucleic acid (RNA), which regulates how genetic material is expressed, and Professor Katie Berry seeks to understand fundamental questions explaining the mechanisms by which RNA does its job. Using the B3H assay, described by one peer as “an important contribution to the field,” Katie and her undergraduate research team measure interactions between RNA and proteins in living cells. Their ongoing work, which looks at the protein ProQ in E. coli cells, is “novel, impactful, and sustainable,” and has far reaching implications.
The reach of Katie’s work extends far beyond the gates of Mount Holyoke. She has several external funding sources, including an impressive R15 NIH grant, Identification of Bacterial RNA Chaperone Proteins and their Mechanisms of Action. Her many publications include the paper Identification of the functional surface for RNA binding by Escherichia coli ProQ in Nucleic Acids Research, which lists six Mount Holyoke students as co-authors, and A bacterial three-hybrid assay for forward and reverse genetic analysis of RNA-protein interactions, in Nature Protocols co-authored with two Mount Holyoke students. With presentations in Berkeley, Spain, and Poland, Katie truly has a well-earned international reputation.
Katie’s research accomplishments would be impressive for their own scientific merit, but what sets her apart from her peers is her extraordinary ability to mentor undergraduate students in research. She has approached the mission of “research-as-teaching” with thoughtful intentionality from her first moments on the job. She carefully designed a lab training program with scaffolding and mentoring structures in place to give each student what they needed to grow and contribute in the laboratory setting. As former lab member Hannah LeBlanc ‘20 writes, “As a research advisor, she masterfully advised her students. I think she did a wonderful job of setting the scope and goals of each person’s work to fit their needs, and did a great job of making sure everyone was progressing without being overwhelming. The work I did in her lab prepared me extremely well for future work in biology. Since I graduated, I think she’s done an impressive job of considering the lab’s place in the scientific community, not just in research but in social and cultural context.” She is also part of a department effort to make sure that students are recruited into labs in ways that are equitable and transparent.
Of course, Katie is also an innovative and caring teacher, planning the structure of her courses with intentionality, and always looking for ways to improve. She revamped the second semester Biochemistry laboratory and developed a curriculum based undergraduate research experience (CURE) for the students and always has the student experience at the forefront of her mind, especially student health, and they find her inspiring, caring, and kind. As one student wrote, “Katie amazingly breaks it all down into digestible chunks of information with guiding problem sets and exams that check for understanding, not memorization. This is one of the best ways to teach science.”
Mount Holyoke is truly lucky to have a faculty member like Katie who embodies the teacher-scholar model with Katie’s excellence. Her contributions to the intellectual life of the college, together with her care for her students, both in the lab and in the classroom, make Mount Holyoke a better place. We are delighted to present her with the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship.