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Hammond appointed chemistry's newest assistant professor

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Ming Hammond
Ming Hammond

August 17, 2009

Ming Chen Hammond, an alumna who earned her chemistry Ph.D. with Paul Bartlett in 2005, has been appointed the Department of Chemistry's newest assistant professor. Hammond, whose appointment was effective July 1, is busy moving into her new lab and office in Lewis Hall.

Born in 1978 in Taipei, Taiwan, Hammond came to the United States with her parents in 1984. After living for a few years near relatives in Baton Rouge, LA, the family settled in Owings Mills, MD. Hammond's father still works nearby as a civil engineer for one firm and her mother as a CAD (computer aided design) technician in a competing civil engineering firm."We learned to enjoy eating crawfish when we lived in Louisiana and blue crabs once we moved to Maryland," says Hammond.

After graduating from high school in 1996, Hammond moved on to Caltech in Pasadena, CA, where she studied chemistry and began her research career in the group of Barbara Imperiali.

While at Caltech, she was selected a member of the first class of Beckman Scholars, a national program funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation and designed to encourage undergraduate research. Hammond graduated with a B.S. in chemistry in 2000.

Hammond joined Bartlett's research group at UC Berkeley in the fall of 2000. For her dissertation she developed beta-strand peptide mimics for inhibiting protein-protein interactions in collaboration with Baruch Harris and Wendell Lim of UCSF. She earned her Ph.D. in Bioorganic Chemistry in 2005.

As a post-doctoral fellow at Yale, working in the lab of biochemist Ronald Breaker, Hammond and co-workers analyzed a single RNA molecule that functions as a Boolean logic gate to control the expression of a metabolic gene in bacteria.

Hammond is also interested in splicing regulation, or the way that introns (the non-coding segments of RNA) are removed, while exons (the segments that code for proteins) are spliced together."If splicing is misregulated, the result can be errors in the way proteins are built, and that may lead to disease," she says.

Hammond adds,"We still have much to learn about how nature can tip the scales toward different functional RNA products in alternative splicing without making wrong products. This level of understanding has many applications, including improving our ability to design splicing regulators."

As a Berkeley chemistry professor, Hammond foresees continuing her work on RNA gene control elements. She imagines her lab as "a place for discoverers and tinkerers, with an emphasis on computational discovery and experimental validation.

"I am very happy to be here," says Hammond,"Having been a grad student here, it's already beginning to feel like home again."

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