Biochemistry faculty profile – Assistant Professor Amy Weeks

Photo of Amy Weeks
Assistant Professor Amy Weeks.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in Clinton, MA, a small mill town near Worcester. I went to public school in Clinton and to MIT for undergraduate studies in chemistry. I got my Ph.D. in Chemistry under the guidance of Dr. Michelle Chang at the University of California, Berkeley. (go Bears!)

Where did you carry out your postdoctoral research?

I did a postdoc with Dr. Jim Wells at the University of California, San Francisco.

As a child, what was your biggest influence?

I was a voracious reader when I was a kid, so I was probably influenced by books more than people. Reading during every free second was a habit that I picked up from my mom and my grandmother.

Why did you decide to study science?

I’ve always found the submicroscopic order that pervades the seemingly chaotic world around us to be breathtaking.

Why did you come to Madison? When?

I knew immediately after my first visit that UW-Madison would be a great environment to start my lab; there are so many amazing faculty and potential collaborators, motivated students, and a diversity of scientific disciplines, approaches, and ideas. I’m also a big believer in accessible public higher education, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. Aside from the science, an evening drive around the city with Dr. Judi Simcox in which we listened to the R&B hits of our youth helped to seal the deal. I came to Madison in the fall of 2019, and I love it!

What do you like most about being a professor?

Working with students and helping them develop as scientists, and pursuing the projects that I find most exciting!

What is the focus of your research?

The overarching goal of my research group is to address a grand challenge in biology, the assignment of function to the hundreds of thousands of post-translational modifications (PTMs) that occur in human cells, by leveraging mass spectrometry-based proteomics in combination with chemical and enzymatic tools for PTM enrichment. To achieve this, we draw from diverse disciplines including mechanistic enzymology, organic synthesis, protein engineering, chemical biology, cell biology, and proteomics.

When you are not working, what do you like to do? What is your favorite place in Madison?

I love running! I value the clarity of mind that running produces and the balance that physical exertion brings to the intellectual effort of being a scientist. I’ve come to see parallels and symmetries between running and being a scientist. In both areas, I’ve learned the value of focusing on process over outcome, the balance between mastery and practice, and the satisfaction of achieving goals that I set for myself. My favorite place in Madison is definitely the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. I’ve enjoyed watching how it changes with the seasons, and I’m particularly enjoying running some of the trails there when they are packed with snow.

Favorite Quote

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” – DH Lawrence

Fantasy Dinner Guests

Haruki Murakami, Hillary Clinton, Kizzmekia Corbett, Justin Trudeau, Jeff Simcox

Best Advice I Ever Received

From a piece of San Francisco street art: “Bloom Wherever You’re Planted”

My Undergrad Alma Mater


If I Weren’t A Professor, I Would

Do something outdoors

In College I Drove

A Trek mountain bike that I won in an essay contest

Favorite Books

Anything by Haruki Murakami, Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, or any of the Brontë sisters

Favorite City

San Francisco, Vancouver

Favorite Movies

I have a short memory for movies, but some favorites that I watched at home during the pandemic are Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Always Be My Maybe, and The Half of It

Favorite Coffee

Colectivo Session Cold Brew