Biochemistry postdoctoral scholar Kate Henderson has received the 2019 Paul Boyer Award for Postdoctoral Excellence in Biochemistry. The award recognizes a postdoc in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry for his or her excellence in research. The postdoc also gives a lecture as part of the Boyer Lecture Series. The lecture is at 3 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25 in Room 1211 of the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemical Sciences Building.
In the laboratory of biochemistry professor Tom Record, she combines superior research with a dedication to mentoring undergraduate students. Henderson has been part of the Record Lab for four years and studies RNA polymerase.
“We are working to quantify the energetics and determine the mechanism of the initial stages of transcription,” Henderson says. “Transcription is part of the central dogma of biology and is very important for cells to function. To be able to understand the mechanism and how this enzyme has evolved to work inside cells is vital in science.”
She adds that she enjoys investigating molecular details and furthering the methods that allow researchers to quantify the interactions taking place in such a huge biological system.
“This is highly novel and exciting research, and Kate has developed the project rapidly and effectively,” says Record, who nominated her for the award. “She is very interactive and collaborative, and facilitates interactions within our group and with other laboratories. She is exceptional as a researcher, mentor, and teacher and in my opinion is highly deserving of this award.”
Henderson joined the Record Lab after completing her Ph.D. in biophysics from Mississippi State University. Her husband’s military service has led to many interesting travels and experiences. After graduating from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. with her undergraduate degree, she was a forensic technologist. She then moved to Texas with her husband and taught high school before starting graduate school. In the Record Lab she oversees six undergraduate students.
“Kate does a great job of mentoring several undergraduates working on multiple different research projects,” says biochemistry undergraduate Sarah Dyke, one of Henderson’s mentees. “She is always happy to answer our questions or show us how to do a protocol we have not done before. She is very positive and friendly and we are lucky to have her as our mentor.”
The Boyer Award is sponsored by department Ph.D. alumnus Paul Boyer, who carried out groundbreaking research in the department as a young scientist and earned a Nobel Prize in chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1997. He used a large portion of his Nobel Prize winnings to fund postdoctoral awards at several universities, including UW–Madison. Boyer passed away in June of 2018.
“It’s an honor to receive an award sponsored by Paul Boyer and to know a great Nobel Laureate got his Ph.D. here,” Henderson adds. “It means a lot and I was sad to learn he passed away last year. I love being in the Record Lab as Tom is the best mentor I’ve ever had and the research taking place in his lab and the whole department is very exciting.”