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ESP Biography



HELEN WIERSMA, Stanford graduate student studying biochemistry




Major: Biochemistry

College/Employer: Stanford

Year of Graduation: G

Picture of Helen Wiersma

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Hi everyone! So here's a little about who I am.

I'm a seventh year graduate student in the department of biochemistry. I love biological molecules (proteins, nucleic acids, homones, ect) - after all, they make up all of us and changes in how these molecules are structured or regulated can have all kinds of interesting effects on us. My research is focused on how a sub-set of these molecules (enzymes) works and how they have evolved to do their particular jobs.
My career plen is to become a high-school teacher upon finishing my Ph.D.
My more interesting hobbies include backpacking, and snowboarding.
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Past Classes

  (Clicking a class title will bring you to the course's section of the corresponding course catalog)

B2492: Oreo-ases: The rate of cookie catalysis and how it relates to disease in Splash! Fall 2012 (Nov. 03 - 04, 2012)
In this class students will become enzymes - processing substrates (oreos) and exploring a variety of different scenerios by measuring parameters of enzyme kinetics. Such scenerios include introducing "drug-based inhibitors" to the "enzymes" (students), causeing the "enzymes" to have mutations, and exploring real world disease scenerios.


B1311: Oreo-ases: The rate of cookie catalysis and how it relates to disease in Splash! Spring 2011 (Apr. 16 - 17, 2011)
Enzymes, life’s chemists, can accelerate the rates of biological processes by up to 20 orders of magnitude over the uncatalyzed reaction. In this exploration, students will become enzymes (oreo-ases), and experiment with how mutations affect the rates of reaction, to gain an intuitive understanding of enzyme kinetics. Also, using alkaline phosphatase as the case study, students will explore the atomic level details of how mutations affect the structure of the enzyme, which, in turn, affects the rate at which it can carry out reactions. We will use a molecular viewer (SwissPDB) in this part of the exploration.


S482: Oreo-ases: The rate of cookie catalysis and how it relates to disease in Splash! Fall 2009 (Oct. 10 - 11, 2009)
Enzymes, life’s chemists, can accelerate the rates of biological processes by up to 20 orders of magnitude over the uncatalyzed reaction. In this exploration, students will become enzymes (oreo-ases), and experiment with how mutations affect the rates of reaction, to gain an intuitive understanding of enzyme kinetics. Also, using HIV protease as the case study, students will explore the atomic level details of how mutations affect the structure of the enzyme, which, in turn, affects the rate at which it can carry out reactions. We will use a molecular viewer (SwissPDB) in this part of the exploration.


S269: Molecular Evolution in Splash! Spring 2009 (Apr. 04 - 05, 2009)
Come explore the beginnings of life. The class will survey four topics: 1) Current theories on how the building blocks of life, nucleic acids and proteins, evolved from simple molecules, 2) the "RNA world" hypothesis, 3) the process of evolving one protein into another, and 4) how mutant forms of proteins provide a selective advantage for organisms to evolve. The class will be primarily case studies taken from recent scientific literature. (This stuff is too cool for textbooks!)