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Vassar on the Front Lines

Voices from a Pandemic

Lisa Keefe ’83/P’22

Lisa Keefe is a biophysicist whose work focuses on accelerating drug discovery through synchrotron-based structural biology. She is Vice President for Advancing Therapeutics at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) in Buffalo, NY, and Director of the Industrial Macromolecular Crystallography Association – Collaborative Access Team (IMCA-CAT) located at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.


Submitted April 23, 2020

I was heartened by the overwhelming response of scientists worldwide in offering their expertise and skills to efforts that are highly collaborative and global. Joining these efforts, my colleagues and I, with expertise in complementary biophysical techniques and spanning academia and industry, have initiated a collaboration focused on structural approaches to drug discovery. Our goals are to immediately respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, develop the infrastructure to respond promptly to any future pandemic, and pursue structure-based drug design research on entities that have the potential to pose a threat in the future.

From a scientist’s perspective, this pandemic has reinforced the need to work collaboratively.

My career in structural biophysics started during my senior year at Vassar when my thesis advisor, Chemistry Professor Joan Dieters, suggested that I meet new Chemistry Professor Miriam Rossi and learn about crystallography. While at Vassar, Prof. Rossi sparked my keen interest in structural biology, and, beyond Vassar, she has provided guidance and mentoring as I navigated graduate school and my current career.

My experience at Vassar has prepared and inspired me to think critically, communicate effectively, pursue life-long learning, and creatively contribute to society in an impactful way.

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