COSAM Alumna Uses Experiences to Help Mentor and Teach Future Generations
Auburn College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) alumna Kristin Zuromski, a 2018 recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, is in her fourth year of the Chemical Biology doctorate program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Zuromski graduated from Auburn in 2014 with a degree in biochemistry and a Spanish minor. Her time in COSAM not only prepared her for graduate school, but also provided her with a stepping-stone for teaching and mentoring younger students in the sciences.
As an undergraduate, Zuromski participated in the Auburn University Marching Band (AUMB), and after two years, traded this involvement for undergraduate research in Dr. Holly Ellis’ lab. Zuromski’s experience conducting research in the Chemistry Department was fundamental to her understanding of how a research lab works, the fundamental techniques used in biochemistry, and how to think about research questions from a scientific perspective, she said.
Zuromski also spent her time in COSAM as a member of the Auburn Chemistry Society, as well as a Supplemental Instructor for chemistry classes.
“These two experiences developed my leadership and intentional planning skills, which definitely helped me during my time with Teach for American and now in grad school. Particularly, being a Supplemental Instructor leader fostered my love for teaching and mentoring, which I continue to build upon now in grad school, and hopefully beyond in my career,” Zuromski said.
After graduating from Auburn, Zuromski spent two years with Teach for America before beginning her graduate studies.
Teach for America is a diverse network of leaders teaching the next generation and working towards a goal of educational equity. Zuromski spent her time with Teach for America as a chemistry teacher in Oklahoma City. While she always knew graduate school was in her future, Zuromski was not quite ready to dive into a nearly five-year program right after completing her undergraduate studies, so she decided to spend some time exploring her love and passion for teaching.
“Everyone’s journey in graduate school will look different – I am so grateful for my time in Teach for America that allowed me to start graduate school with a different set of experiences, perspectives, and skills than I had if I were to have gone to graduate school right after I graduated from Auburn,” Zuromski said.
These skills have greatly benefitted Zuromski with the different requirements of being a graduate student, especially with being a Teaching Assistant for MIT undergraduate students.
With about one year to go until she receives her doctoral degree, Zuromski is busy running experiments, analyzing data, attending seminars, and doing whatever is needed on any given day.
Zuromski’s current work in the Baker Lab at MIT includes the study of mechanisms of ATP-dependent protein degradation. Zuromski has spent the past few years exploring the biomedical mechanism of the 12 individual subunits of ClpA, a hexameric ATP-dependent unfoldase – enzymes important in maintaining homeostasis in cells and remodeling the proteome during cellular stress responses, she said.
Zuromski’s efforts and success does not go unnoticed. In 2018, she was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a prestigious and competitive award providing research funding and a cost of living stipend for three years of graduate research.
While Zuromski is not quite sure what career she wants to pursue after graduation, she knows she wants to continue pursuing science outreach to younger students in her community.
Zuromski credits several of her Auburn chemistry professors for providing invaluable advice and guidance, and for fostering in her a curiosity and love for biochemistry that continues to impact her work today.