Blake Gillespie moved to the west coast from Nashville to attend The Evergreen State College in 1987, and has been working his way south ever since. After obtaining his B.S., he joined the University of Oregon's Institute of Molecular Biology in 1993, where he studied protein folding and stability under Rick Dahlquist. Receiving his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1999, he left UO to join Kevin Plaxco's laboratory at UC Santa Barbara. His research focused on the evolutionary basis of protein structural dynamics using de novo designed proteins as model systems. Dr. Gillespie began teaching biochemistry at CSU Channel Islands in 2003, and is now developing a structural biology research program here in the Chemistry division. He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Joy Elizondo, who teaches at the Crane Country Day School in Montecito. They are avid gardeners, cyclists, all-around adventurers and world-travelers.
Dr. Gillespie's research goals stem from an abiding interest in the structure of living organisms at their smallest scale, and of proteins in particular. Molecular architecture and structure determine the chemical behavior of proteins. This chemistry in turn governs the activity of molecules. All organisms require active molecules to carry out every aspect of living, and damaged or non-functional proteins are often at the root of disease. Therefore, biomolecular structure is in a very real sense the fundamental language for understanding all life.
In particular, Dr. Gillespie uses a variety of biophysical tools to characterize protein structure and dynamics. These range from spectroscopic methods such as circular dichroism and fluorescence to analytical techniques like differential scanning calorimetry and ultracentrifugation to tools for high-resolution structural studies such as NMR and X-ray crystallography. Using small proteins and simplified model systems, he addresses basic problems in biophysics, such as the physical basis of protein thermostability, the role of natural selection in determining protein folding kinetics, and the hydrodynamic properties of protein unfolded states.
Dr. Gillespie believes the research is central to the education of young scientists. Working in the laboratory serves two important goals. First, hand-on work at the lab bench can drive home fundamental concepts like no other educational experience, leaving students the ability to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real problems. Second, the road to becoming a scientist is long and hard, and students need to see first-hand its the challenges and rewards before making a life-changing commitment.