GS: Where are you from?
KV: Montgomery, Alabama born and raised. In my bedroom playing video games is where I spent most of my days.
GS: What degree did you receive and when?
KV: I received my Ph.D. in Chemistry in December 2010 and was hooded in May 2011. I finished early.
GS: How long have you been at UAB?
KV: I joined the Department of Chemistry in August 2005 and Aaron Lucius' lab in June 2006.
GS: What is your research?
KV: I look at the assembly of a motor protein, E. coli ClpA. It works with another protein, ClpP, to form a sort of "molecular paper shredder", with ClpA pulling proteins into ClpP, which then destroys the protein. We've published four really nice papers
concerning the hydrodynamics and thermodynamics of the assemble of ClpA, making particular use of the technique of Analytical Ultracentrifugation through the Beckman XL-A in Peter Prevevlige's lab within the Department of Microbiology.
GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
KV: I was a part of the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Chemistry during the Summer of 2002, between my Sophomore and Junior years at Lipscomb University. This program was chaired by Dr. Tracy Hamilton, and during the program I worked for Dr. Nonidez and Dr. Brande. It was a great experience, with it culminating in us presenting the research at the 2003 American Chemical Society National Convention. The people I met and experiences I had during my REU were the defining reason I chose UAB and the Department of Chemistry.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
KV: In 2010 I was named the Alabama Chapter of the American Chemical Society's Outstanding Chemistry Graduate Student Fellow. Additionally, I was awarded an Alabama EPSCoR Graduate Research Scholars Program Training Grant from 2008-09 and in 2006 I received the Department of Chemistry's Outstanding General Chemistry Teaching Assistant Award.
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
KV: Being the first graduate student in a lab gave me a lot of insight as to the "behind the scenes" nature of research; the financial and logistical aspects. It made for a difficult beginning with a lot of work, but it opened my eyes.
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
KV: That's easy. My advisor (and co-labmate since day one), Aaron Lucius. I was his first graduate student, and he's been a great advisor to work for. We've been able to accomplish a lot in a relatively short amount of time and grow a large and very talented research lab.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
KV: I like doing interesting things, and doing them right. Research relies on this.
GS: What are your plans after graduation and for the future?
KV: For the next couple of months, I'll be adding to the ClpA assembly research foundation I helped build while in Lucius Lab by expanding on the research findings we published to include additional looks at the assembly state using X-ray Crystallography methods and Electron Microscopy/Tomography. Essentially trying to get as much done is as short amount of time as possible.
Keith’s advice for other graduate students:
Enjoy your time the best you can, and help each other out. Surround yourself with good people and then strive to make them better. I'm very appreciative of not only the academic aspects I learned at UAB (and my undergraduate institution, Lipscomb University), but what I learned in the process regarding confidence and the ability to overcome obstacles. That knowledge and experience is probably more valuable, as it can be applied to any situation, not just academic ones.