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Erika Cline '08
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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Erika Cline '08

Lake Bluff, Illinois

Majors in Biochemistry & Mathematics

Erika is a research scientist in the Proteomics Center of Excellence at Northwestern University, where she's focusing on the molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Erika Cline '08

Can you tell us a little bit about your research and areas of interest?

The overall goal of my research is to learn more about what goes on at the molecular level in a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, I am focused on better understanding the pathogenic structural changes of the Alzheimer’s toxins amyloid-beta oligomers, from chemical modifications to aggregate structure, and of glycoproteins, which are proteins with attached sugars that may be altered when Alzheimer’s disease is driven by metabolic disorders. We aim to use this knowledge to develop disease-modifying treatments and diagnostic tests for early detection. In fact, I am currently assisting with preparations for immunotherapy targeting amyloid-beta oligomers to enter Phase I clinical trials next year.

Why did you decide initially to study biochemistry and mathematics?

I have been interested in mathematics for as long as I can remember. I think I had already decided in grade school that I would study math in college. My interest in biochemistry didn’t start until my first year at Knox during the 100-level biology courses. Once I found out that there was a field that studied the smallest details of biology, I was hooked. I had great mentors in both majors at Knox—Professors [Mary] Armon and [Diana] Cermak—that steered me toward my current career path. I have worked in many labs since Knox but have always been a biochemist at the root and have always placed an emphasis on data analysis and statistical analysis in my work.

How is the pandemic affecting your work?

Our day-to-day routines are different, but we have still been pushing our research forward at a similar pace. Now, we only visit the lab when we need to do a hands-on experiment and we operate physical lab spaces at 65% capacity. All planning, writing, data analysis, and meetings are conducted at home. Notwithstanding the reason for it, I am enjoying the extra time at home with my wife and son.

Can you describe a favorite memory or two from your time at Knox?

Being a SMC rat; I was the very definition of one. I took classes, studied, and worked there [in the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center, a.k.a. SMC]. Honors research in biochemistry/organic chemistry with Professor Cermak. And work-study in the Computer Center.

Why is Knox important to you?

Knox set the foundation for my research career–via rigorous coursework and high-quality research opportunities. And I made life-long friends.

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Printed on Monday, November 28, 2022