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Sean W. Fanning, Ph.D.


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I grew up in idyllic Geneva Illinois which is about 40 miles due west from Chicago. Science has always been a big part of my life thanks to my parents. My dad has an M.S. in chemistry from Virginia Tech and my mom has a B.S. in biology from Indiana University. Football was also major part of my life growing up. I played from the end of grade school through high school. In fact, my senior class was the first to have a winning season in over 20 years. I also loved playing the drums whether it was in the school band or with friends.

After high school I went to Virginia Tech where I earned my B.S. in biochemistry with a minor in chemistry (2004-2008). Interestingly, I'm from a long line of Hokies, my dad, grandpa and his grandpa all attended Tech. Needless to say we're pretty die-hard fans. My undergraduate research experience at VT really developed my passion for research. I worked at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute making proteins from deep sea Archea. Though this work, I learned protein expression and purification and other basic biochemical techniques. In the summer after my junior and senior years at VT I worked at Perkins Products LLC as a research and development intern. I learned techniques like GC/MS, x-ray fluorescence and FT-IR. I also learned about good quality control practices and lab management practices while I was there.

Following undergrad I went on to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Northern Illinois University (2008-2012). I chose NIU because of Dr. James Horn, I was really interested in his work and saw a great opportunity to learn and grow as a scientist. Jim was a fantastic Ph.D. advisor and he really helped me develop expertise in biophysics, structural biology and protein engineering while I was there. Some of the techniques I learned there include isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), surface plasmon resonance (SPR), enzyme linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA), macromolecular x-ray crystallography, and phage display of proteins. I also worked closely with Dr. Timothy Hagen to help in his work with the Chicago Structural Genomics for Infectious Disease where I learned a great deal about drug design and discovery. In addition to my publications (see Research) I also was awarded the John D. Graham Scholarship for outstanding academic and research performance by a graduate student as well as the Center for Biophysical and Biochemical Studies Student Research Grant.

During my third year at NIU I met Dr. Geoffrey Greene at the University of Chicago. He recruited me to my current postdoctoral position in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research. Now I am using the education and training that I acquired at NIU to help improve the prognosis and quality of life for the cancer patient. I have just been awarded the Cancer Biology Training Grant from the University of Chicago Committee on Cancer Biology. This was a competitive fellowship that is funded by the National Cancer Institute a division of the National Institutes of Health. This is a great beginning fellowship because it both provides outside funding and gives me training in cancer biology research. I have also attended three conferences to date and have presented posters at two. So far my work has been really well received and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the future has in store! Feel free to friend me on Facebook or connect with me on LinkedIn if you want to learn more.