Amy Palmer engages chemistry and biology to develop novel imaging tools for the study of diverse functions in living cells. She seeks to understand many fundamental biochemical processes, from metal homeostasis to signaling at the host-pathogen interface. Dr. Palmer draws from a multifaceted background; she received a B.A. in biophysical chemistry from Dartmouth College and obtained a master’s degree in science education while completing her Ph.D. in chemistry at Stanford. During her graduate training, Palmer began focusing on the role of metals in biology. She expanded this interest as a postdoctoral fellow with Nobel laureate Roger Tsien at the University of California San Diego, creating novel fluorescent sensors to study calcium signaling in different organelles within cells. With her diverse skillset, Dr. Palmer readily creates new technology to answer challenging biochemical questions.
Dr. Palmer was recruited to the BioFrontiers Institute in 2005 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The Palmer lab focuses on characterizing the cell biology of zinc, developing creative fluorescent tools, and identifying signaling pathways at the host-pathogen interface. Dr. Palmer has merged her interests to create fluorescent sensors capable of detecting varying levels of zinc in living cells. This technology may provide a means to diagnose disease, such as neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, and could be expanded to detect imbalances in other biologically significant metals such as copper. Dr. Palmer’s investigation is never limited by available technology. Through her interdisciplinary and innovative research program, Dr. Palmer helped establish the BioFrontiers imaging core facilities, which advance the work of labs across campus. Palmer’s broad range of inquiry has led her to extensive collaboration with faculty members including Natalie Ahn (CHEM/BCHM), Ralph Jimenez (JILA), Rob Batey (CHEM/BCHM) and Corrie Detweiler (MCDB).
Amy Palmer currently serves as an Associate Professor and continues to foster a culture of collaborative research and impactful teaching at BioFrontiers. She received an NSF CAREER award in 2010 and an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award in 2014, as well as the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in STEM Education in 2016. Dr. Palmer is a voice for curriculum reform, and redesigned the undergraduate program for chemistry and biochemistry majors to emphasize critical thinking and advanced materials. Dr. Palmer encourages creativity and innovation in her research program and has impressed this mode of thinking on hundreds of undergraduates in her classes. Through a commitment to novel quantitative imaging techniques, Dr. Palmer is answering longstanding questions about biochemical interactions in living cells.