Meet a Scientist: Kelly George
Jun 14

Meet a Scientist: Kelly George

By Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Research and Science Education Outreach Coordinator

This Saturday, June 17, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., come to the Tropical Forest and meet local scientist Kelly George—a chemistry doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. Kelly’s research is focused on proteins, the “workhorse” molecules in the bodies of all living things. Proteins carry out most of the important functions that cells need to survive, which makes them an incredibly important part of life. The goal of Kelly’s work with proteins, specifically, is to help these complex molecules maintain their structure and function in a lab setting—which would ultimately help with the design of new medicines!

But don’t let her research fool you; Kelly George is not just a chemistry lab-dweller.  After college, Kelly backpacked across Asia and the Middle East while she explored her own interests by reading through as many subjects as she could. Through her own self-guided studies, she found herself continually returning to scientific topics.

“In the end,” she says. “I really missed the type of analytical thinking that goes along with science and it became very clear to me that it was the intersection of chemistry and biology which fascinated me the most. This led me to graduate school with the goal of diving deep into the science and thoroughly understanding it.”

The decision has served her well! As someone with the drive and curiosity to always learn more, Kelly is rewarded every day.

“My favorite part of my job is how different each day is,” Kelly shares. “Because my research spans the chemical and biological fields, I am often reading about new topics, learning new techniques and thinking up new ways to test my hypotheses…. I get excited every time I discover something new. Whether it is as simple as a material which dissolves unexpectedly or an experiment I designed which produces data I never would have predicted, it is exciting to work on projects in basic research which are cutting edge.”

On top of her research, Kelly is also dedicated to science education as a way to reach out to others and share the wonders of nature—no matter what their background.

“I worry that too many people see science as something that they wouldn’t understand and scientists as people from another world - but that’s just not true,” Kelly explains.  “It all comes down to overcoming barriers and making sure we are all speaking the same language.  I see science education as a tool to overcome these barriers and as a bridge towards sharing my excitement of discovery and awe of nature’s complexity.”

Indeed, the awe of nature’s complexity—which spans from Kelly’s research with proteins, to Phipps’ work with the most delicate of orchids, to an astronaut’s mission to the stars—this awe is the true heart of science. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about a world too small to be seen with the average microscope, don’t miss Kelly George talking about proteins this Saturday from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Tropical Forest—she is excited to tell you all about her work!

Photo credits: Kelly George and Pexel CC0