Dr Rebecca Voorhees
Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies for Natural Sciences (Biological)
Telephone: 01223 267396
Dr. Voorhees is a Sir Henry Wellcome fellow at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC-LMB), where she studies the chemical and molecular mechanisms of protein production, localization, and quality control.
Dr. Voorhees completed her undergraduate studies at Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut), graduating with a BS and MS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (2003-2007). While at Yale she worked with Professor Scott Strobel studying the detailed chemical mechanism of protein synthesis. In 2007 she came to Clare College, Cambridge for a PhD in Molecular Biology at the MRC-LMB with Dr V Ramakrishnan, studying the structure and function of the ribosome (2007-2011). Following completion of her PhD she has remained in Cambridge as a research fellow at Peterhouse (2010-2013) and has recently begun work with Dr Ramanujan Hegde (MRC-LMB) and Dr Robert Keenan (University of Chicago, Illinois).
Her research focuses on understanding the chemical mechanisms of complex molecular processes using both functional and structural techniques. As a PhD student she studied how the macromolecular enzyme, known as the ribosome, synthesizes proteins. Her work utilized a technique known as X-ray crystallography, which can be used to produce molecular photographs that pinpoint the location of each atom in a molecule or enzyme. An animation that uses these high-resolution images to summarize her findings on how fidelity is maintained during protein synthesis can be viewed below.
Dr Voorhees’ current research focuses on what happens to proteins after they are synthesized by the ribosome. First, how are they trafficked to different compartments within the cell, and second, what happens when these processes fail? This work is critical for understanding the molecular basis of numerous human diseases that affect protein folding and localization including cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer's disease. When not in the lab, Dr Voorhees is a keen swimmer and water polo player, and played several years for the Cambridge blues squad while a student.
Publications can be viewed here - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
News articles about her research can be viewed at the following links:
2011: How the ‘green light’ is given for protein translation
2009: How the genetic code is accurately translated into protein