Student Spotlight: Katherine Ward, Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry

Author: Mary Hendriksen

Katherine Ward, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, studies an enzyme that is a hallmark of inflammation, Cytosolic Phospholipase A2. The enzyme is controlled by a potent sphingolipid, Ceramide-1-Phosphate, which impacts atherosclerosis and the rate-limiting step of inflammation.

Katie Ward

Katherine, whose adviser is Prof. Robert Stahelin, is working to solve the structural basis of this interaction—which, once achieved, can contribute to the design of pharmacological therapies for patients with cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The significance of Katie’s work has been recognized by the American Heart Association, which recently awarded her a two-year, $52,000 pre-doctoral fellowship.

Katie became familiar with Notre Dame by participating in a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program between her junior and senior years as an undergraduate. As testimony to her own skills as well as the interdisciplinarity of work in the life sciences at Notre Dame, her placement that summer was in the field of biological nanotechnology—in Prof. Ryan Roeder laboratory.

Katie has displayed the latest work on her project at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology national conference, where she was awarded “Best Poster” in the category of Lipid Membrane Metabolism. She has also published the results of her research in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Katie has enjoyed assisting in teaching at Notre Dame and has received two educational awards for her contributions. The Kaneb Center recognized her for outstanding work as a general chemistry laboratory instructor. From her own department, she received the Roger K. Bretthauer Award for teaching biochemistry.

She says: “I know that Notre Dame was the right choice for me. I work with cutting-edge facilities in my lab while receiving personal attention from professors in my department.”