Degree(s): Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Chemical Engineering
Undergraduate Institution: New York University Tandon School of Engineering
Graduate Institution: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Photo Credit: Melanie Burnes
Dr. Asher Williams is currently the first Black Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. A Trinidad and Tobago national, she migrated to the US in 2011 after being awarded an Open Scholarship in Natural Sciences, which is granted to the top 1% of students taking the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination. Her graduate research at RPI focused on harnessing bacterial production systems to generate pain-relieving compounds and anticoagulant drugs through metabolic engineering. As part of ongoing efforts to separate the food chain from the drug chain, she concentrated on optimizing regulatory and genetic processes within cells in order to increase the cells’ production of specific high-value compounds and worked extensively on protein engineering, activity optimization, and recombinant expression of various enzymes.
Dr. Williams was also awarded an RPI Presidential Graduate Research Fellowship. During her graduate career, she mentored several graduate and undergraduate students, presented at research conferences, and published over 10 co-authored papers in peer-reviewed journals (with a pending patent). She also served as vice president of the Black Graduate Students Association at RPI and worked on several initiative to increase the recruitment and retention of minoritized students in graduate education. Dr. Williams was named a Class of 2020 Changemaker at RPI. Her research at Cornell is aimed at cell-free biosynthesis of conjugate vaccines against enteric infections in young children, and engineering ex vivo immune organoids for modeling immune responses and antibody generation.