Road to Research: A Q&A with Head of Custom Protein Resources, Bret Redwine
"I couldn’t ask for a better fit for my personality."
16 August 2023
What brought you to the Stowers Institute?
A circuitous path is the short answer. The long answer starts with me hearing about the Stowers Institute in an email from my undergraduate mentor while stationed as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Guatemala. When I returned from service in 2003, I restarted my research career in the lab of Joan and Ron Conaway. I left Kansas City in 2005 for graduate and postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School, but I always looked for a way to return to my hometown and the Stowers community. Five years after returning, the open, forward-thinking environment at the Institute provided the opportunity to start a new Technology Center, Custom Protein Resources.
Why are you interested in your field of research?
As a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, I studied structural biology, single-molecule motor protein research, and cell biology. I fell in love with the ability to design and test proteins in purified, reconstituted systems and then test the results of those experiments in cells. I worked with motor proteins like dynein and kinesin, which walk along microtubules to transport molecular cargo within a cell. The bedrock of those projects was using diverse approaches to fully understand protein function, which has translated well into the varied projects that I encounter at the Institute.
What inspires you to keep working in your field?
I am attracted to problems and enjoy taking a question-centered approach to research. Over the years, that has meant taking on whatever technique was necessary, making me more of a generalist than a specialist. Protein research can mean many things, which means I lean on my diverse skillset and can impact a wide range of projects. The variability of organisms and projects at the Institute only adds to the mix - combined, I am always energized and challenged. I couldn’t ask for a better fit for my personality.
What have you found most rewarding about your work?
I am helping others overcome obstacles, plain and simple. Working in a Technology Center after considerable time on the traditional academic path required that I shift my perspective and motivations. It necessitated that I cast my gaze outward to determine how to best meet the needs of the Institute’s scientists. It brings me immense satisfaction when I am successful in that endeavor and can contribute meaningfully to a scientist’s project.
What impact do you hope your research will have?
I am hopeful that Custom Protein Resources will help empower Stowers Institute scientists to branch outside their comfort zone to consider how protein biochemistry data can add value to their science. If I am fortunate, I can convince a few early-stage scientists to consider a career working with proteins.