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single molecule level, their stochastic nature is evi-

dent – events don’t all happen at a set time when

you’re dealing with single molecules.” She began

using single molecule techniques immediately

thereafter. Van Oijen recalls, “Candice worked on

a number of quite elegant single-molecule experi-

ments in my group. She used fluorescence imaging

tools to visualize how proteins move along DNA

and used her knack for physics to describe some

of the molecular properties that determine how

proteins interact with DNA.”

Following her PhD, Etson began a postdoctoral

fellowship in the lab of

David Walt

at Tufts

University, as part of the Training in Education

and Critical Research Skills (TEACRS) program.

“TEACRS postdocs spend 75% of their time in

the lab, and the rest of the time is spent on career

development, including training in all aspects of

teaching,” she says. Etson worked on developing

new methods of studying the activity of restric-

tion endonucleases at the single molecule level.

She used fluorescence spectroscopy and single

molecule imaging in this endeavor. “The methods

I developed can also be applied to other enzymes

that modify nucleic acids,” she explains.

In the Walt lab she also worked on a science

outreach project called Bioinformatics Inquiry

through Sequencing (BioSeq). “We set up a se-

quencing center that is for educational use, and we

developed hands-on, open-ended experimental lab

modules designed to introduce high school stu-

dents to next generation sequencing and bioinfor-

matics,” Etson says. “I really enjoyed this project

because doing science with high school students

requires a whole different mindset, and I learned a

lot about education and how to engage people.”

This month, Etson began a new position as Assis-

tant Professor of Physics at Wesleyan University.

She currently is using Total Internal Reflection

Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to study how

proteins interact with DNA. “Most recently, I

have been using TIRF microscopy to observe the

cleavage of DNA at the single molecule level,” she

elaborates. “By characterizing the distributions of

the times at which the individual events occur, it is

possible to uncover the presence of reaction inter-

mediates that cannot be directly observed.” In her

new post at Wesleyan, Etson plans on continuing

this work while expanding the methods she uses.

“I plan to move into single-molecule Förster Reso-

nance Energy Transfer (smFRET) studies to get

more information from my experiments,” she says.

Etson also plans to continue work-

ing with undergraduate students in

her new position, exposing them

to research opportunities. “I really

enjoy working with novice research-

ers and introducing people to the

practice of science. It’s so much bet-

ter than studying from a textbook,”

she says. “People tend to think that

science, and especially physics, is

really hard. It’s not easy, but I don’t

believe it is as difficult as some

people think it is. There is a lot of

beauty in science, and I love it when

I can help students see that beauty

for themselves.”

Van Oijen believes that Etson will be a great

example for her students. “Candice is a fantastic

role model for young scientists. She has been able

to launch a successful career as a scientist having

started in a non-traditional way and while having

a family,” he says. “I hope that students at Wes-

leyan are smart enough to pick her lab for their

thesis research!”

Etson’s life is not all science, all the time. She is

married with two daughters, and loves spending

time with her family and also engaging her artistic

side. “That includes cooking, sewing, knitting,

and even building things for around my home,”

she shares. “I also take the occasional dance class,

and volunteer backstage when my

daughters perform.”

Throughout Etson’s career, she has benefitted

from the time and energy her advisors and other

scientists expended for her, and hopes to continue

this tradition with her own students. “I admire

all of those people who were willing to give their

time to share their knowledge and to encourage

me to continue along the path to becoming an

academic scientist,” she says. “Each of them had

plenty of reasons that they could have been too

busy for me, but they took the time anyway. I

never want to forget how important five minutes

can be for someone who is trying to find his or

her path.” Her first piece of advice for young

scientists? “Try things. Get as many different

research experiences as possible before you choose

something to specialize in. Sometimes the things

you like to read about don’t turn out to be a good

match for your way of thinking or working in the

lab. Find a good match so that you can enjoy

your work.”



Wesleyan University

Area of Research

Single-molecule studies of

proteins that interact with

and/or modify DNA

Etson dancing with

her daughter.

Etson teaching high school students during

the BioSeq program.