From Grad to Fellow

Andy Powers, Ph.D. ’11


As a graduate student, Andy Powers, Ph.D. ’11, studied in the Asbury lab with Chip Asbury, Ph.D. ’99, part of the UW School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics. He now works as a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR).

“The training I received from my mentor Chip Asbury was instrumental in preparing me for the challenges of postdoctoral work. He is a master of communicating crystal-clear ideas to explain complex experimental results, and he pursues biological questions with the precision and rigor of an engineer, always designing the best possible experiment to test a given hypothesis. Chip is also an incredibly kind and genuine person who strives to maintain a fun and collegial atmosphere in lab,” says Dr. Powers.

For six years, Powers examined how dividing cells generate force to segregate chromosomes during mitosis. Part of this research included work on how kinetochores monitor the quality of microtubule attachments to prevent chromosome mis-segregation, which can lead to birth defects and cancer.

“I have many great memories from my time at UW and of living in Seattle, but the best was meeting my wife in our first year of graduate school. The years we spent in Seattle doing research, spending time with friends and exploring the city and the Pacific Northwest were wonderful. We recently had a baby girl and can’t wait to show her Seattle,” says Powers.

Powers is a native of Sonoma, CA, and has traded the Pacific Northwest for Cambridge, MA, for his post at NIBR.

“I have been really impressed with the talented scientists and high-quality research at NIBR. It’s inspiring to work in an atmosphere where rare diseases are given as much attention as more prevalent conditions,” says Powers.

Powers is focusing on a protein called Cdk5, a signaling molecule that participates in many aspects of normal cellular physiology but is thought to become dysregulated in neurodegenerative and metabolic disorders. To study Cdk5, his team is employing a full biological, biochemical and genetic toolkit, including the use of knockout mice to study the consequence of ablating Cdk5-associated genes.

“Ultimately, we hope that our findings will shed light on an understudied aspect of cellular biology, and we also hope that they will provide answers about what governs Cdk5 activity in health and disease,” says Powers.

On life in the Northeast, Powers says he and his wife have had a blast exploring this new part of the country.

“But it was hard to leave behind such dear friends. I definitely miss the stunning beauty of the mountains and water and enjoying the recreational opportunities… and nothing tops the cuisine available in the Pacific Northwest.”