Cathy Spangler successfully defended her dissertation titled “Exploring the Mechanistic Basis of Nucleosome Interactions” on January 27th, 2022 under the direction of Dr. Robert McGinty. Cathy received a double B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016. During this time, she began her scientific research career in the lab of Dr. Nikolay Dokholyan, where she worked on the development of novel organophosphate protein bioscavengers and investigated the role of vitamin D3 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) motor neuron degeneration.
Cathy joined the Biochemistry and Biophysics department on the biophysics track in 2017 after completing the Molecular and Cellular Biophysics Program (MCBP). Her graduate research in Dr. McGinty’s group focused on understanding the molecular basis of nucleosome binding and recognition by nuclear proteins. These essential interactions ensure proper gene regulation in eukaryotic organisms, and misregulation of nucleosome interactors is frequently observed in diseases such as cancer. Cathy used cryo-electron microscopy to solve the three-dimensional structures of three unique classes of chromatin-interacting proteins bound to the nucleosome, providing foundational knowledge of how these molecular interactions can be effectively therapeutically targeted.
During her time at UNC, Cathy enjoyed mentoring both undergraduate and high school students in the lab, as well as designing and presenting science outreach activities at local schools and events. She presented her graduate work at regional and international conferences and was selected to complete an EMBO practical course for integrative structural biology in Hamburg, Germany in 2019. In 2020, Cathy was awarded the NCI Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award (F99/K00), which funded her last two years of graduate studies and will support her postdoctoral fellowship position in the lab of Dr. Eric Gouaux at Oregon Health and Science University. In Dr. Gouaux’s group, Cathy plans to explore the structural and functional basis of AMPA receptor misregulation in glioblastoma.