Ashley Guo, PhD’20 remembers it well: arriving as a new graduate student in 2014, part of the first cohort of graduate students who would spend their entire graduate school tenure at what was then known as the Institute for Molecular Engineering.
“I remember the atmosphere,” she said. “There was a feeling of, this is really exciting and new, and all these faculty are coming from other great schools to start this new institute. There was no history, and there was a sense of freedom.”
Guo joined Prof. Juan de Pablo’s group, conducting molecular dynamics simulations of proteins involved in type 2 diabetes. The protein, called amylin, aggregates in those who have the disease, and Guo studied how two of these proteins might begin to come together. She also helped develop molecular simulation software.
Along the way, she found “a really great cohort of people. Everyone was warm and welcoming and helped me so much along the way.” She remembers long hours in the lab, punctuated by running into friends in the hallway late into the evening. “I miss hanging out with students and postdocs from other labs, especially at odd hours,” she said.
Her time at the school helped set her up for success by providing her the resources she needed not only in the classroom and the lab, but also for workshops and conferences. “There was an attitude of, we want everyone to do great,” she said.
After earning her PhD in 2020, Guo began a postdoctoral fellowship at New York University’s Center for Soft Matter Research. There, she studies a different type of organization, this time looking at how collections of randomly interacting particles might become ordered.
“We’re using tools from information theory to quantify the entropy of a system and characterize organization in it,” she said.
She hopes to eventually pursue a career in academia and wishes she could see her old colleagues as the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering celebrates its anniversary.
“It has become such a strong school,” she said. “It will be exciting to see what happens in the next ten years.”