Center for Computational Biology
Once hooked, Sonya Hanson doesn’t give up. She still plays the French horn her father gave her when she was 9 years old (most recently with the L Train Brass Band in Manhattan). And three years into her graduate research, when Hanson realized her project wasn’t working, she did not despair. Instead, she changed tack.
“Her incredible resilience got her through it, even when her experiments didn’t work,” says Simon Newstead, a professor at the University of Oxford and one of Hanson’s Ph.D. advisers.
In a biochemistry Ph.D. program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Oxford, Hanson had set out to understand how a heat-sensing protein in mammals works. The protein TRPV1 binds to capsaicin, the main ‘hot’ chemical found in chili peppers, and is a member of a family of proteins activated by temperature. She first attempted to determine its structure.