Female graduate student stands in front of a colorful mosaic.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Francesca Vaccaro

Categories: Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Francesca Vaccaro describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Originally from Orange County, California, Francesca Vaccaro is a second year graduate student in Professor Catherine Drennan‘s group. Her current research focuses on structurally characterizing the final step of Adenosylcobalamin(AdoCbl) delivery and repair in humans. She is using x-ray crystallography and electron microscopy to visualize the structure of the final AdoCbl-dependent mutase in complex with its G-protein chaperone to understand how the molecular interactions inform the function the enzyme and associated disease phenotypes of Methylmalonic Aciduria.

As the subject of December 2018’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Francesca shares the adventure she’d like to embark on, the person who has impressed her the most with what they’ve accomplished, the food she craves most often, and more!

  1. What random job do you think you’d be really good at?
    Wedding planner! I would get to focus on other people’s visions and take care of all of the little details for a couple’s special day.
  2. What food do you crave most often?
    Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips
  3. What superstition do you believe in?
    Not necessarily a superstition, but my grandmother interprets dreams and so I always call her whenever I need some insight into what my subconscious is trying to tell me.
  4. What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
    I am excited to see how the people in my life continue to grow.  I know that these next ten years will bring so much change but I cannot wait to see all the incredible things that they accomplish not only in their careers but in the relationships that develop.
  5. Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
    When I was teaching kindergarten, the first day of school there was a student who was really struggling. He cried all day because he missed his mom and he was really behind compared to his peers. By the end of the year, he was at the top of his class and had so much confidence in his ability to read. It is so incredibly impressive to see just how much he could accomplish in just a few months.
  6. As a child, what did you think would be awesome about being an adult, but isn’t as awesome as you thought it would be?
    Living far away from my family. I always wanted to move away from home, but the long (& expensive) plane rides to see my family are not as exciting as I imagined as a child.
  7. Who is the most famous person you have met?
    I might be a bit biased but Cathy Drennan!
  8. Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    I have always been fascinated with how things work and asked tons of questions growing up; it only made sense for me to learn how to enzymes worked on a molecular level.
  9. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
    Visiting all of the national parks in the United States! The beauty and grandness of nature always grounds me.
  10. Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
    My three best friends from undergrad!
  11. Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
    No matter what I am feeling, I can always listen to Florence and the Machine.
  12. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
    The finished house would have a large well thought out kitchen and plenty of communal spaces for sharing meals. It also would have a lot of natural light and plenty of plants.
  13. What bends your mind every time you think about it?
    Meme culture—every time one of my students tries to explain it to me, I am so confused.
  14. Who, besides your parents, has had the greatest impact on your life?
    Picking one person almost seems impossible because there have been so many people that have dramatically changed the course of my life. However, if I had to pick one, it would be my undergraduate advisor, Dr. Koplitz; she is an incredible scientist who helped me develop the skills and confidence to pursue a career in science.
  15. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
    I would probably travel throughout the world volunteering at elementary schools. I would get to experience different cultures and spend time with adorable children.
  16. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    I would go back to being a kindergarten teacher!
  17. An epic feast is held in your honor, what’s on the table?
    Probably a combination of my favorite Puerto Rican food and anything that my grandma makes!
  18. What would be the scariest monster you could imagine?
    Professor Drennan’s dog, Casey, without a haircut for one year!
  19. What’s something common from your childhood that will seem strange to future generations?
    Having to wait to watch a movie because you forgot to rewind the tape the last time you watched it!
  20. What job doesn’t exist now but will exist in the future?
    An individual that writes legislation determining the policy regarding space travel.

Many thanks to Francesca for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!