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About this episode
#4 — Liz Kellogg is Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University. In this episode of Cryo-Talk, Liz joins Eva Amsen to share how she uses cryoEM to learn more about CRISPR-associated transposons. We also hear about the challenges of keeping a new lab going during the early days of COVID and find out what her favorite music is. Tune in to hear more!
This is an automated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.
Welcome to Cryo-Talk a Bitesizebio Podcast, sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific featuring conversations between your host, Eva Amsen and experts in the field of Cryo-electron Microscopy.
Liz Kellogg (00:24):
We are really interested, not just in understanding the mechanism of these CRISPR associate transposons, but in adapting them as genome engineering tools,
Eva Amsen (00:33):
Her advice for early career researchers,
Liz Kellogg (00:36):
You are the best judge of what is best for you. So have confidence in yourself.
Eva Amsen (00:44):
And what kind of music she listens to.
Liz Kellogg (00:46):
I listened to a lot of like two thousands pop because that was my time. You know,
Eva Amsen (00:51):
All in this episode of Cryo-Talk. Hi and welcome to Cryo-Talk. I’m Eva Amsen, and I’m here today with Liz Kellogg Assistant Professor in Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University. Her research group uses Cryo EM to study molecular mechanisms related to DNA recombination and protein engineering. So Liz, how are you today?
Liz Kellogg (01:17):
I’m good. Thank you.
Eva Amsen (01:18):
Thanks for joining us. Now, we, we always ask our guests to share a little bit of their research backstory, and I think you have a connection to one of our previous podcast guests podcast guests. Yeah.
Eva Amsen (02:54):
Yeah. Cuz you now you’re, you’re looking at mechanisms that could be useful for genome engineering.
Liz Kellogg (03:00):
Can you tell me a bit about that? Yeah, so we’re actually very interested in things called transposons transposons are mobile genetic elements, they’re selfish genes that essentially replicate their own DNA. And so we were very interested in their ability to cut and paste DNA without introducing these while bypassing double strand breaks. They essentially affect this, this process. They do this autonomously. But the class of transposon we’re extremely interested in now is called CRISPR associated transposons. And that means that these naturally associate with a CRISPR effector, these effectors do not cleave DNA they actually bind the RNA and in a target DNA and they recruit the transposition machinery to that site for insertion of their genomic payload. And so a lot of people are very interested in using these systems as tools for programmable DNA, insertion mm-hmm
Eva Amsen (04:19):
Yeah. So that, that, that actually leads me right into my next question is how are you using Cryo EM for that?
Liz Kellogg (04:25):
Yeah. So Cryo EM is great as a a tool as you well know, speaking to our previous guests because you don’t need to crystallize your your, your target of interest. So we can actually reconstitute large ensembles of proteins onto DNA substrates. Now that the, you know, the challenge is to figure out what DNA substrate to use in order to stabilize the full assembly. But we have found that Cryo EM is incredibly useful in terms of unraveling these mechanisms because we can visualize different states. Mm-Hmm
Eva Amsen (05:32):
Mm yeah. It’s really, it it’s one of those techniques that is it’s, it makes you be able to look at things that you can’t do in any other way, which is kind of what we’ve heard in, in every episode so far.
Liz Kellogg (05:46):
Yeah. We love it.
Eva Amsen (05:48):
So if you, if you could look into the future of cry OEM what do you think, where do you think it will be in like five to 10 years maybe thinking about the kind of applications that people are using it for?
Liz Kellogg (06:02):
Yeah. I think that’s a really good question. I loved the previous episode with Eva Nogales mm-hmm
Eva Amsen (07:11):
Mm-Hmm yeah, definitely. Yeah. and you started your lab in 2019, so it’s not that long ago. How have those first few years been for you and, and what are you looking forward to doing in the next few years?
Liz Kellogg (07:25):
Yeah, I’m, that’s a really great question as well. So we, so starting in 2019, I, of course, was affected by the pandemic, like every other assistant professor. That’s been exceedingly challenging and I think, you know, in 2020, when things shut down, it was hard because, you know, you, we had to keep our labs, our growing labs together. You had to maintain some sort of cohesiveness when everybody was alone at home by themselves. I think that was very challenging, but right now is still challenging as well for growing labs because of supply chain issues. Mm-Hmm,
Eva Amsen (08:57):
Yeah. That’s, that’s definitely something to think about. And I guess also, yeah, working from home is not possible if you work in a lab. So
Liz Kellogg (09:21):
Yeah. I mean, yeah. Also, you know, I mean, I don’t have small children, but a lot of my colleagues with small, this is also the time when people start families. And I think that that was like, I don’t have children, but I can’t even imagine, you know, that must, that must have been so difficult. So, you know, that’s even without the added additional challenges of having small children, so
Eva Amsen (09:43):
Yeah. so yeah. What, what, what are you, what are your plans for the next few years? Assuming no further pandemics
Liz Kellogg (09:51):
Gosh, I would love it if we, if we could have like, you know, returned back to the way things were, but I don’t know that that’s gonna happen anytime soon.
Eva Amsen (11:02):
Liz Kellogg (11:08):
So I used to have I used to do ballet very seriously. But it’s been challenging to fit classes in mm-hmm
Eva Amsen (11:46):
Yeah. That’s that’s a good plan.
Liz Kellogg (12:03):
I think they both have their merits. I like both. I think I’m the kind of person that when I’m in the countryside, I, I like to be in the city and when I’m in a city, I like to be in the country. So
Liz Kellogg (12:20):
And do you like to cook? I love cooking. I love it. And I love to improvise. I love to just kind of go into my pantry and take out whatever I have and then make a delicious meal.
Eva Amsen (12:31):
Any, any favorite recipes you want to share?
Liz Kellogg (12:35):
My go-to is salsa Verde Chilaquiles. I usually make that on Saturdays, Saturday mornings
Eva Amsen (12:45):
And do you like reading? Do you have any book recommendations?
Liz Kellogg (12:49):
I, the last, well, I, I loved reading. I don’t read as much as I read a lot of papers. I don’t read a lot of books, although I, I really would love to get back into it. The last book I read was bad blood, and this was the book by John Carenou about the Thenos story. That’s the last novel I read.
Eva Amsen (13:08):
So sounds interesting. I also kind of want to see the, the show about that.
Liz Kellogg (13:14):
Fascinating do it.
Eva Amsen (13:18):
Um speaking of shows are there any films or TV shows that you watched in the last year or two that you would recommend?
Liz Kellogg (13:27):
Eva Amsen (13:42):
Oh yeah. I have a meaning to see that. I also still need to see it. Yeah. Maybe by the time this airs, we have both seen it, but.
Liz Kellogg (13:49):
I hope so. A really good one.
Eva Amsen (13:51):
Yeah. And do you listen to music.
Liz Kellogg (13:55):
All the time? Yeah.
Eva Amsen (13:57):
Like what do you listen to?
Liz Kellogg (13:59):
Um I love pop music, so I listen to a lot of like two thousands pop because that was my time, you know, mm-hmm,
Eva Amsen (14:18):
So do you listen to music while working or just while you’re running or all the time?
Liz Kellogg (14:23):
All the time. All the time. I, I listen to music and I listen to podcasts. Mm. And I listen to the Cryo-Talk podcast as well.
Eva Amsen (14:30):
Liz Kellogg (14:36):
Yeah, that’s an interesting question because I actually, with my colleagues, we sometimes think about this, but I think I would be a writer because I, I love, I actually love writing. Um so I think, I don’t know if I would seems like a big change, you know, writing scientific manuscripts to novels, but I have a couple ideas.
Eva Amsen (15:00):
Hmm. Well, you can do both as we we’ve learned from from our first podcast guest Joachim Frank, so he’s, he’s managed to do both, so it’s possible.
Liz Kellogg (15:12):
But he’s in so incredible.
Eva Amsen (15:24):
Um and something else that you mentioned earlier is you also have a podcast. Do you maybe want to tell people about that?
Liz Kellogg (15:32):
Eva Amsen (16:26):
Yeah. And now you get to be a guest here, so
Liz Kellogg (16:29):
Thank you so much. Yeah.
Eva Amsen (16:31):
Um yeah. So I’ve got one more question for you. And do you have any advice for researchers who are just starting out their career?
Liz Kellogg (16:42):
Yeah. I also think about this a lot too. I mean, having advice, students, I think a lot about how best to guide them. I kind of struggle with this because I feel like everybody’s trajectory is so unique and what works well for me, someone like me may not work very well for someone else. Mm-Hmm
Eva Amsen (18:06):
Yeah. That makes sense. Cuz everyone is different and.
Liz Kellogg (18:09):
I mean, you’re the one that knows best about what you like, what you enjoy and where, you know, where you should go next, what you should do next, things like that. Right. So yeah.
Eva Amsen (18:19):
Yeah. It’s I always personally find it hard when, when people like ask me for advice, because what do, do you want me to tell you what I did cuz I that’s the only experience I have, but yeah,
Liz Kellogg (18:32):
Exactly. I have a very, very limited, you know.
Eva Amsen (18:35):
Yeah. I’ve done one thing. That brings us to the end of today’s episode. Thanks everyone for listening to or watching Cryo-Talk.
Liz Kellogg (18:44):
Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you for listening to Cryo-Talk a Bitesizebio podcast, sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific to view all audio and video recordings from this series, please visit bitesizebio.com/cryo-talk.