From an early age, Rebecca Alford’s desire to understand her visual impairment ignited her passion for science. Today, this passion drives her research in engineering computational tools to investigate biology at the molecular level. As a high school student researcher at New York University, Rebecca developed an algorithm to detect potentially disease-causing mutations, which she presented at TEDxCMU in 2013. As a visiting undergraduate researcher at Johns Hopkins, she developed a suite of tools within the Rosetta biomolecular modeling software to investigate membrane protein structure. Both of these works lay a foundation for better computational modeling membrane proteins, a class of proteins that are targeted by 60% of drugs but are very difficult to study in the wet lab.
In 2016, Rebecca graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a BS in chemistry. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD at Johns Hopkins University in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Her current work focuses on developing physics-based models of different cell membrane environments to be used in structure prediction. Her overall future goal is to work at the interface of computing, chemistry, and biology to investigate diseases at the molecular level and create new drugs to treat them.
Outside of the lab, Rebecca is dedicated to increasing participation in computing fields, especially for women and students with disabilities. Toward this goal, she has led various efforts including mentoring several high school and undergraduate students, spearheading inclusion initiatives within the RosettaCommons, and helping to create a new summer internship program in computational biology.
Rebecca is from Commack, New York.