Creighton University professor's career goal -- help students succeed

September 09, 2021

Image with caption: Creighton University undergraduates join Dr. Lynne Dieckman in the lab. Pictured left to right are: Keely Orndorff, Olivia Nicholson, Dr. Dieckman, Neal Sinha, Grace Majeres and Molly Dolan.

Creighton University undergraduates join Dr. Lynne Dieckman in the lab. Pictured left to right are: Keely Orndorff, Olivia Nicholson, Dr. Dieckman, Neal Sinha, Grace Majeres and Molly Dolan.

Dr. Lynne Dieckman’s goal in life is simple. 

If the associate professor of biochemistry at Creighton University can make a difference in just one person’s life for the better, then she will have accomplished all that she set out to do. 

"I’ve had such great mentors in my life who have challenged and inspired me, and I want to help other students in their journey to success," Dr. Dieckman said. 

Currently, she has 15 students working in her lab, including a mixture of undergraduate and high school students. 

Dr. Dieckman, who received a National Science Foundation CAREER award earlier this year, is studying how DNA is packaged into the nucleus and the impact this has on genome stability. 

The five-year, $680,500 grant allows Dr. Dieckman to further explore the role proteins PCNA and CAF-1 play in the condensing of DNA and which genes are turned on or off once it is packaged in the nucleus. 

"We are very interested in the kinetics, thermodynamics and structure of the complexes formed between these two proteins during DNA compaction," she said. 

Dr. Dieckman first became interested in this field of research the summer before her post-doc program began at the University of Iowa where she received her doctoral degree. 

It was just supposed to be something to do to bide her time.  

"My graduate school research dealt with DNA replication and repair, and my post-doc project would deal with DNA compaction. I would also getthe opportunity to teach for a semester during my post-doc," Dr. Dieckman said. 

The transition between her graduate school research, into what would become the focus of her career and something that would allow her to teach and mentor undergraduate students, coincided perfectly she said. 

"I’ve wanted to teach my whole life," Dr. Dieckman said. "When I was a child, my mom often caught me  in my bedroom teaching my stuffed animals." 

This love of teaching led to her becoming a tutor all throughout junior high, high school and college and it would influence her choice of research project she would focus on at Creighton University. 

"It's exciting research but easily understandable and feasible for undergraduate students," she said. 

Dr. Dieckman grew up in Janesville, Iowa, a rural farming community in the northeastern part of the state and was one of 28 students in her senior class. Her family lived in a house overlooking the Cedar River. Her mom worked as a food service director for Waverly High School in the nearby town and her stepdad worked for John Deer in Waterloo. 

A curious child, Dr. Dieckman said she "always asked a lot of questions about everything, and it drove my mom crazy". 

She credits her interest in science to her high school chemistry teacher, who challenged her curious nature with extra homework. 

"He was very intense, but he really challenged me to succeed, and I thrive on challenges," Dr. Dieckman said. 

She hopes to pass that same enthusiasm on to the students she mentors and hopes that they find DNA research just as exhilarating as she does. 

"It’s a cool molecule, it’s what makes every human individual, and it's the foundation of life."