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College of Arts & Sciences

Biology Major Takes the Lead on the Track and in the Lab


Biology major, track star and published research author Kathryn Fanning works in the UAlbany laboratories of The RNA Institute. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 25, 2013) — University at Albany junior Kathryn Fanning knows about being on the fast track to success. The biology major holds the women’s one-mile and 1,000 meter track & field records at UAlbany, and she can now claim authorship of an article in a major international research journal.

Fanning, who has also excelled in the classroom, maintaining a 3.9 cumulative grade point average, is well on her way toward her goal of attending medical school.

The Manlius, N.Y., native receives authorship on the study “A novel role of cytosolic protein synthesis inhibition in aminoglycoside ototoxicity,” published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience, along with senior author Jung-Bum Shin of the University of Virginia, Dr. Paul Agris, director of The RNA Institute at the University at Albany, and Kimberly Harris, a UAlbany Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry.

UAlbany women's mile record holder Kathryn Fanning
UAlbany women's record holder in the mile and 1,000 meter run, Fanning won both events at the America East Championship meet this past weekend in Boston, Mass.

Fanning prizes the opportunity she has had to work at The RNA Institute, which brings together top scientists, working with state-of-the-art facilities, to spur research and discovery into medical interventions and diagnostics aimed at treating a range of diseases.

“The RNA institute is an incredible establishment,” said Fanning. “Researchers like Dr. Agris provide the opportunity for undergrads to carry out experiments on their own and perform studies with the guidance of graduate and PhD students. Kimberly Harris has been extremely helpful to me by ensuring I understand the underlying science behind the experiments I am performing.”

The study published in this month’s Journal considers the effects of a specific group of antibiotics known as aminoglycosides on hearing loss, due to their causing degeneration of hair cells located within the ear.

“My work primarily focused on finding evidence that the antibiotics were binding to a specific section of ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) to cause the damage,” said Fanning. “I found this research very interesting because it brings together the biochemistry that is involved in medicine and illustrates exactly how the drugs are functioning.”

Fanning draws praise from all walks of the University. “Kathryn is a committed young scientist with a delightful nature, whether that be in traditional academics, her research opportunity to fight antibiotic resistance with new ideas, or as a scholar athlete,” said Agris. “She has the personality, engagement and the investment to succeed.”

“I’ll take a dozen like her to work with every year,” said Matt Jones, UAlbany’s running coach. “She’s an aggressive, smart racer, and a wonderful person.” Roberto Vives, director of UAlbany’s track and field and cross country programs concurred: “Kathryn’s tremendous in whatever we ask her to do — on the track, in class, in community service, and in every other way.”

Fanning’s attention to community service was demonstrated last spring, when she tutored college students in organic chemistry for the federally funded Center for Achievement, Retention and Student Success, and in January, when she participated in the Department of Athletics’ community outreach to junior high students in track.