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Chemistry Department

Kelly SheppardKelly Sheppard

Department Chair and Associate Professor of Chemistry

Office: Dana 274
Phone: 518-580-5135
Fax: 518-580-5139
Email: ksheppar@skidmore.edu

At Skidmore since 2010

Affiliated Faculty, RNA Institute, SUNY-Albany
Curriculum Vitae


A.B. 1999, Occidental College
Ph.D. 2007, Yale University
Postdoctoral Associate, 2007-2010, Yale University



My research group is interested in the different pathways organisms use to translate the genetic code, in particular with regard to the amino acid asparagine (Asn). To translate Asn codons requires forming the adapter molecule asparaginyl-transfer RNA (Asn-tRNA), a step essential for all of life. In nature, two distinct routes have evolved to form this vital adapter molecule.

A number of bacteria, including known human pathogens, appear to encode both routes. Informed by advances in biochemistry, molecular genetics, microbiology, and molecular evolution, we are interested in determining if this is the case and if so how these organisms use both pathways.

The work provides insight not only into the life cycles of these bacteria but also into the evolution of the Asn decoding pathways. The research also lays the foundation for development of new antibiotics to target these pathogenic bacteria. We are also applying our knowledge of these pathways to expand the genetic code to incorporate unnatural amino acids into proteins to facilitate studies on Alzheimer’s Disease and more active anti-cancer agents.

Student collaborators gain expertise in molecular subcloning, PCR, protein overproduction and purification, plasmid mini/maxi-preparations, E. coli complementation studies, chromatography, gel electrophoresis, enzyme kinetics, buffer and reagent preparation, sequence analysis, and in vitro transcription as well as learn how to handle DNA, RNA, and proteins appropriately.

The work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and Research Corporation. Students have the opportunity to present their research at regional, national, and international meetings as well as publish in peer-reviewed journals.


Selected Publications (*authors contributed equally to this work; Skidmore Undergraduates are underlined)


American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Chemical Society
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Microbiology
Council on Undergraduate Research
New York Academy of Sciences