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Katherine Frato, PhD

Associate Professor


Teaching and Research Interests

Dr. Frato’s research group is broadly interested in understanding how proteins and biosynthetic pathways work, especially in diatoms. We employ our favorite techniques of protein film electrochemistry, UV-Vis spectrophotometry, intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence, computational modeling, and bioinformatics, and are always learning new techniques to help us answer biochemical questions. Some projects currently underway in the lab are:

  • Specificity, mechanism, and regulation of pigment de-epoxidase enzymes in T. pseudonana and F. cylindrus
  • Inserting new biosynthetic enzymes into the algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii for long-term sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide
  • Electron transfer properties of cytochrome f from T. pseudonana and F. cylindrus

Dr. Frato's teaching interests are general chemistry and biochemistry. Dr. Frato is particularly focused on integrating research into undergraduate coursework. Students can participate in Dr. Frato's research through multi-quarter mentored research projects and through course-based research experiences including:

  • CHEM 1590 (research-intensive General Chemistry III)
  • CHEM 4600 (Advanced Enzymology)
  • CHEM 4990-10 (Cas9 genome editing for carbon capture)


A native of northeast Ohio, Dr. Frato graduated from The College of Wooster in 2004 with a double major in biology and physics. Her independent study thesis was titled “Experimental Studies of Signal Noise in Gene Regulation in the Inducible Antibiotic Resistance Pathway of E. coli”. Ever since, she has been deeply interested in interdisciplinary research at the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics. She subsequently earned a PhD in the Program in Molecular Biophysics at Johns Hopkins University, where she worked with Professor Robert Schleif to develop a method to quantify extremely weak protein-protein interactions, specifically those between the two domains of the bacterial regulatory protein AraC.

In 2010 Dr. Frato moved to Boston University as a Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow in Chemistry. At BU she was involved in lecture and discussions for General and Quantitative Analytical Chemistry. In addition, she conducted research on redox active enzymes with Professor Sean Elliott. Her work focused on using direct electrochemical methods to elucidate the mechanism of bacterial diheme peroxidases. In 2012-2013 she was awarded a fellowship for Cross-disciplinary Training in Nanotechnology for Cancer at BU to study human thioredoxin reductase. She joined the faculty of Seattle University as an assistant professor in 2013.

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