The Benchmark: Seven Questions for Amanda Hummon

Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry




Amanda Hummon was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA.  She earned her A.B. in chemistry at Cornell University in 1999, where she did undergraduate research in the laboratory of Prof. James M. Burlitch, synthesizing copper phthalocyanine nanoparticles.  She received her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry in 2004 from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where her thesis work with Prof. Jonathan V. Sweedler focused on the development of mass spectrometric and bioinformatic strategies to predict and identify neuropeptides.  Amanda stayed on at the University of Illinois for postdoctoral work in the laboratories of Prof. Gene E. Robinson and Prof. Sandra L. Rodriguez-Zas, where her research centered on constructing a methodology to utilize detected gene products to annotate the newly sequenced honey bee genome. In 2005, Amanda began her position as the Sallie Rosen Kaplen Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Ried. During her time in the Ried lab, she utilized RNA interference screening techniques followed by microarray analysis to elucidate genes that regulate the viability of colorectal cancer cells.  Amanda came to Notre Dame in the fall of 2009 as the Walther Cancer Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

  1. When did you realize you wanted to be a scientist and, more specifically, what led you to focus on analytical chemistry?

I decided that I loved chemistry the day our teacher introduced the periodic table. I was a high school sophomore. The idea that all matter could be organized into a meaningful system really appealed to me. My decision to be an analytical chemist was motivated by my graduate advisor, Jonathan Sweedler. His research group develops analytical methods to examine neurochemistry. As a prospective graduate student, I decided I wanted to be part of that research community and have never looked back.


  1. Can you share with us your most memorable experience (or that “Eureka!” moment) in the lab?

As a second year graduate student, I designed a project to examine a novel enzymatic process in slug brains. I needed a critical piece of MALDI mass spectrometry data to prove that the enzyme was active in our brain extracts. I was using our MALDI instrument late at night when I got the spectra I needed. Since I was the last one in the lab, I cranked the volume on the radio and danced around the lab for awhile to celebrate my results.


  1. Geek alert: Do you have a pet piece of instrumentation or a favorite technique?

I love doing cell culture work. It feels like cooking, but more complicated. I get a particular satisfaction from a successful transfection.


  1. What do you consider the grand challenge in your field of cancer proteomics?

Personalized medicine. Cancer is not a single disease. Every individual develops a unique cancer, depending on their genetic background and environmental exposures. In cancer proteomics, genomics, etc, we are looking for trends that will help the majority of people, but individualized treatments would be much more effective.


  1. What do you especially like about Notre Dame?

I love that Notre Dame is a place where you run into five people you know walking across campus. I have learned that this is not a place to talk on your cell phone while crossing campus. Inevitably, you will run into friends and colleagues.


  1. If you could have dinner with any three people of the past or the present, who would they be?

My two favorite authors are Jane Austen and Arthur Conan Doyle. Both had amazing powers of observation. Austen’s ability is displayed in her assessments of social interactions and Doyle’s is evident in his construction of mysteries. However, my top choice of a historical dinner companion would be Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln combined an amazing intellect with true compassion.


  1. What do you do to unwind?

As a grad student and postdoc, I spent much of my free time designing and constructing stained glass windows. However, I now have two small children and soldering irons/glass shards are not good things to have around the house. I’ve put the windows on hold for a few years. Lately, I’ve been mostly reading or exercising when I have time to myself.