Nebraska Chemistry is pleased to introduce Dr. James Checco as one of the newest faculty members of the department. Checco joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in August 2019 as Assistant Professor.
Checco received his undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Checco then received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the group of Professor Samuel Gellman. Prior to joining Nebraska Chemistry, Checco was a Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Under the mentorship of Professor Jonathan Sweedler, Checco’s research explored the biochemical signaling pathways of D-amino acid-containing neuropeptides. Checco has published ten peer-reviewed articles, is an inventor on one patent, has given over a dozen research seminars and conference presentations, and won numerous awards for research, outstanding presentations, and mentorship.
At Nebraska, Dr. Checco’s lab aims to answer open questions related to how cells in living systems communicate with one another. Checco is particularly interested in the functions of neuropeptides and peptide hormones, small proteins that serve as chemical transmitters which play important roles in the central nervous and endocrine systems. “We use chemical approaches to answer important questions in cell-to-cell signaling, including identifying and quantifying the chemical signals that are present, figuring out how these molecules function, and designing novel chemical tools to understand the details of this signaling,” said Checco, “Our research aims to shed light on how normal and diseased cells communicate, with a long-term goal of identifying new targets for therapeutic treatment.”
Checco is eager to grow his new research group at Nebraska. He reflected on his own graduate school experience in how he hopes to develop his own lab, “I woke up almost every day truly excited to get to lab, to solve a problem, and to discover something new. I aim for my students to look back on their time in my group in a similar way, truly enjoying what they are doing.”
Checco will also serve as a Project Leader for the Nebraska Center for Integrated Bimolecular Communication (NCIBC). In regards to this additional appointment, Checco added, “NCIBC is a unique program that supports research in cellular communication, facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations, and provides mentorship to junior faculty members. Participating in this program is an incredible opportunity that was impossible to pass up.”
Checco was drawn to Nebraska because of the high quality and interdisciplinary nature of the research. Checco was also very impressed with the world-class facilities across all of UNL, noting specifically the Nebraska Center for Mass Spectrometry (NCMS). Checco said, “The state-of the-art mass spectrometry instrumentation available in the NCMS provides my lab with key resources required to answer important research questions.”
“In my short time as part of the department, I have been especially impressed by the collegiality and stimulating research environment created by the faculty, staff, and students,” Checco adds, “Nebraska Chemistry as an ideal department for my research to flourish.”