Profile for Taviare Hawkins

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Specialty area(s)

Computational Methods and Experimental Biophysics

Brief biography

Currently on leave

I am a native of Chicago and I spent the first half of my life in the Midwest. I attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, where I received my BS in Physics and a minor in African American Studies. I left the world of academia for 3 year, moved out east to the island of Manhattan. Where I became a Real Estate Asset Manager for the Resolution Trust Corporation. (It really is true that with a physics degree, you can do just about anything!). I then entered graduate school at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. There I completed two MS degrees, one in Computer Science and the other in Physics, as well as, a PhD in Physics. My graduate work was in nonlinear systems analysis and human computer interfacing. It was also at Syracuse that I became interested in teaching. I went onto postdoc at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in an experimental biophysics lab.

I have taught physics at Syracuse University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Mount Holyoke College, and now at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I have more than 9 years of teaching experience. I have taught introductory physics, algebra and calculus based, in the traditional lecture style, as well as, in the more interactive workshop style. I have taught housewives to physics majors, premeds and pre-pharmacy students, as well as graduate students in the Molecular and Cellular Biology department. I have also taught advanced topics like, optics, modern, and advanced laboratory experiment.

Current courses at UWL

PHY 203 - General Physics I (Calculus-based Mechanics taught in the Active-Learning style)
PHY 311 - Experimental Physics Laboratory (Writing emphasis intermediate physics laboratory)
PHY 497 - Physics Seminar
PHY 498 - Physics and Astronomy Research: Experimental Biophysics

Education

Biophysics, University of Massachusetts -Amherst, Amherst Massachusetts (Postdoc)
Physics, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York (MS & PhD)
Computer Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York ( MS )
Physics, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa ( BS )

Teaching history

PHY 103 Laboratory - Fundamental Physics I (Algebra-based)
PHY 125 - Physics for the Life Sciences (Algebra-based Lecture and Laboratory)
PHY 203 - General Physics I (Calculus-based Mechanics taught in the Active-Learning style)
PHY 204 - General Physics II (Calculus-based Electricity and Magnetism taught in the Active Learning style)
PHY 250 - Modern Physics
PHY 311 - Experimental Physics Laboratory (Writing emphasis intermediate physics laboratory)
PHY 314 - Introduction to Biophysics: Biomechanics and Special Topics in Biophysics
PHY 453 -Topics in Physics & Astronomy: Biophysical Studies of Cellular Processes
PHY 453 - Topics in Physics & Astronomy: Introduction to Scientific Writing in Experimental Biophysics
PHY 453 - Topics in Physics & Astronomy: Advance Experimental Biomechanics
PHY 491 - Physics Capstone
PHY 497 - Physics Seminar
PHY 498 - Physics and Astronomy Research
CHM 499 - Chemistry Research

Professional history

2019 – Present  Chair and Professor of Physics ( 2019)
2016 – 2019  Associate Professor of Physics (Tenured 2018)
2012 – 2016  Assistant Professor of Physics
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI

2009 – 2012  Postdoctoral Research Associate
Physics Department, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Amherst, MA

2008 – 2010   Mount Holyoke Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Physics, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA

Research and publishing

My research involves working on problems that lie at the intersections of physics, mathematics, engineering, biology, and chemistry. I am a biophysicist who uses the quantitative skills and methods I learned in physics to understand better how living cells do what they do. Since this problem is very complicated and quite broad, I have focused my attention on the cytoskeletal filaments called microtubules. Understanding the mechanics and dynamics properties of microtubules and how microtubule-associated proteins work to fine-tune these properties within cells is the area where my research interests lie.

Selected Publications: 

9. K.P. Wall, H. Hart*, T. Lee, C. Paige, T.L. Hawkins, and L. Hough, "C-terminal tail polyglycylation polyglutamylation alter microtubule mechanical properties" Biophysical Journal (2020) doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2020.09.040

8. H. Zhou, N. Isozaki, K. Ukita, T.L. Hawkins, J.L. Ross, and R. Yokokawa, "Nanometer-level localization precision reveals growth rate-dependent flexural rigidity of microtubules,"

7.  (Invited Book Chapter) D.R. Mitchell, T.L. Hawkins, and K.W. Foster, “Chapter 23: Microtubule Based Motility,” Cell Physiology Source Book (Under review).

6.  B.J. Harris*, J.L. Ross, and T.L. Hawkins, “Microtubule seams are not mechanically weak defects,Physical Review E 97 062408 (2018).  doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.97.062408

5.  N. Isozaki, H. Shintaku, H. Kotera, T.L. Hawkins, J.L. Ross, and R. Yokokawa, “Control of molecular shuttles by designing electrical and mechanical properties of microtubules,” Science Robotics (2017). doi: 10.1126/scirobotics.aan4882

Also published as: "Sorting of molecular shuttles by designing electrical and mechanical properties of microtubules," BioRxiv (2017). doi:10.1101/107458

4.  M. Bailey, L. Conway, M.W. Gramlich, T.L. Hawkins, J.L. Ross, “Modern Methods to Interrogate Microtubule Dynamics,” Integrative Biology 1324-1333 (2013) Chosen as an iBiology HOT Article!doi: 10.1039/C3IB40124C

3.  T.L. Hawkins, D. Sept, B. Moogessie, A. Straube, J.L. Ross, “Mechanics of Doubly Stabilized Microtubules,” Biophysical Journal 104 1517-1528 (2013). (Cover Art) Chosen for Biophysical Journal Collection on Molecular Motors and the Cytoskeleton! doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.02.026)

2.  T.L. Hawkins, M. Mirigian*, J. Li*, M.S. Yasar, D.L. Sackett, D. Sept, J.L. Ross, “Perturbations in Microtubule Mechanics from Tubulin Preparation,” Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering 5 227-238 (2012).

1.  T. Hawkins, M. Mirigian*, M. Selcuk Yasar, J.L. Ross, “Mechanics of Microtubules,” Journal of Biomechanics 43 23-30 (2010). doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.09.005

*Undergraduate Author

Kudos

presented

Taviare Hawkins, Physics, presented "Flexibility in Physics: The intersectionality of research and life" at Distinguished Speaker Series on Nov. 3 in University of San Diego via Zoom. Hawkins is the chair of the physics department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and runs a lab there, "working to understand the physical properties of biological filaments," such as microtubules. Among her many awards and accolades, she is also notable as the 50th African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in physics. In addition to her research, she will discuss her path to earning her doctorate, as well as the state of African-American women in physics in general.

Submitted on: Nov. 4, 2020

 

presented

Taviare Hawkins, Physics, presented "Black women and education" at Black Women's Experience and Feminism in the US course on Oct. 28 in UW Platteville. Guest speaker for Black Women's Experience and Feminism in the US course. The class focused on black women and education and ways to increasing the number of women and the other underrepresented groups in science.

Submitted on: Oct. 29, 2020

 

presented

Taviare Hawkins, Physics, presented "Flexibility in Physics " at Hamline University Physics Seminar on Oct. 16 in St Paul, Minnesota. Two lessons in flexibility will be discussed. The first is in the research that I do in characterizing microtubule rigidity. The other is in my path in physics.

Submitted on: Oct. 22, 2020

 

published

Harold Hart and Taviare Hawkins, Physics, both Physics; and Loren Hough, Thomas Lee, Cynthia Page and Katheryn Wall, all University of Colorado Boulder; co-authored the article "C-terminal tail polyglycylation and polyglutamylation alter microtubule mechanical properties" in Biophysical Journal and was accepted for publication by Elsevier. Microtubules are biopolymers that perform diverse cellular functions. Microtubule behavior regulation occurs in part through post-translational modification of both the a- and ß- subunits of tubulin. One class of modifications is the heterogeneous addition of glycine and/or glutamate residues to the disordered C-terminal tails (CTTs) of tubulin. Due to their prevalence in stable, high-stress cellular structures such as cilia, we sought to determine if these modifications alter microtubules’ intrinsic stiffness. Here we describe the purification and characterization of differentially-modified pools of tubulin from Tetrahymena thermophila. We found that post-translational modifications do affect microtubule stiffness, but do not affect the number of protofilaments incorporated into microtubules. We measured the spin dynamics of nuclei in the CTT backbone by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to explore the mechanism of this change. Our results show that the a-tubulin CTT does not protrude out from the microtubule surface, as is commonly depicted in models, but instead interacts with the dimer’s surface. Thus suggests that the interactions of the a-tubulin CTT with the tubulin body contributes to the stiffness of the assembled microtubule, thus providing insight into the mechanism by which polyglycylation and polyglutamylation can alter microtubule mechanical properties.

Submitted on: Oct. 5, 2020

 

presented

Harold Hart, Physics '19; Loren Hough, Thomas Lee, Kathryn P. Wall and Cynthia Paige, all University of Colorado Boulder; and Taviare Hawkins, Physics; presented "C-Terminal Tail Polyglycylation and Polyglutamylation alter microtubule Mechanical Properties" at Biophysical Society Annual Meeting on Feb. 19 in San Diego, California Convention Center. Microtubules are biopolymers that perform diverse cellular functions. The regulation of microtubule behavior occurs in part through post-translational modification of both the alpha- and beta- subunits of tubulin. One class of modifications is the heterogeneous addition of glycine and glutamate residues to the disordered C-terminal tails of tubulin. Due to their prevalence in stable, high-stress cellular structures such as cilia, we sought to determine if these modifications alter the intrinsic stiffness of microtubules. Here we describe the purification and characterization of differentially-modified pools of tubulin from Tetrahymena thermophila. We found that glycylation on the alpha-C-terminal tail is a key determinant of microtubule stiffness, but does not affect the number of protofilaments incorporated into microtubules. We measured the dynamics of the tail peptide backbone using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We found that the spin-spin relaxation rate showed a pronounced decreased as a function of distance from the tubulin surface for the alpha-tubulin tail, indicating that the alpha-tubulin tail interacts with the dimer surface. This suggests that the interactions of the alpha-C-terminal tail with the tubulin body contributes to the stiffness of the assembled microtubule, providing insight into the mechanism by which glycylation and glutamylation can alter microtubule mechanical properties.

Submitted on: Feb. 24, 2020