Faculty Focus: Vincent Hilser

Faculty Focus: Vincent Hilser

Vincent Hilser is a professor and the chair of the biology department, as well as an alumnus of the school.

Describe your primary research or scholarship, and tell us what is most exciting about your current project.

I am a physical biochemist, and I study how proteins perform the myriad functions they do in living cells. Specifically, we study the role that conformational fluctuations in proteins play in the evolution of new structures with novel functions. Our evolving understanding of these fluctuations has allowed us to probe for distant relationships between structurally dissimilar molecules, and most recently we began investigating how these same fluctuations can be used by viruses to induce autoimmunity in host organisms.

Share a best practice or tip for successful teaching or mentoring.

In a word – excitement. I have always found that if you can identify and convey to students why something makes you excited to know it, it provides a path toward a real understanding. But excitement has the added advantage of being contagious.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I spend my time outside of work reading, gardening, and going to the opera and the symphony when possible. I also consider myself a foodie and spend much of my free time cooking.