Constance (Connie) Jeffery, PhD

Associate Professor
University of Illinois at Chicago
AWIS member since 2010

“Leading in small things can give you practice in speaking up and stepping up and being confident and ready to lead in the larger things.”

AWIS Member Constance Jeffery

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t assume how much your team members know. Some worry that they will be judged poorly if they don’t understand something or might not realize what they don’t understand. Talk to them often and find out what background reading, advice, and opportunities will help them be successful.

What do you consider to be your most important career achievement or milestone?

I wrote an article on moonlighting proteins. In that article I coined the term and this topic grew into an ever expanding research direction that enables us to understanding protein structure, functions, and evolution in new ways. Additionally, I was recently elected to be a AAAS Fellow.

What do you aspire to accomplish in your career and why? What obstacles will you overcome?

I have many research ideas, but resources have been limiting. I’m using my creativity to get access to needed equipment and expand my lab by accepting students from other departments. For example, developing computer-based projects for students from the bioinformatics department.

Describe an amazing opportunity in your STEM career.

The scientific meetings I attend have given me the opportunity to meet many amazing scientists, including the Biophysical Society meetings, the Protein Society meetings, and our annual Midwest Protein Folding meeting. One that stands out is a pseudoenzymes meeting in Sardinia a few years ago.

How was AWIS helped you professionally and/or personally?

I received training in leadership, planning projects, and mentoring. I have met a lot of great people and learned about other women’s experiences in STEM, which helped me find solutions to some of the barriers that have been put before me.

What is your favorite word?


How do you define it?

Making things work in spite of the challenges

How has this word influenced or inspired your career?

There have been many barriers to success. The key is to be creative, find ways to move forward, and bring others along with you.

How does AWIS impact your career journey?

It helped me find solutions to some of the challenges in my career, and to help others in their career journeys.

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I’m perpetually trying to catch up with the many interesting journal articles on protein structure and function that are being published. Also, we found a great used book store and have been picking up a lot of sci-fi and Agatha Christie mysteries.

What do you consider the best professional or personal advice you’ve ever received?

Lead – in small things as well as big things. Leading in small things can give you practice in speaking up and stepping up and being confident and ready to lead in the larger things – and what might seem like a small thing at the time might make a big difference to someone.

Connie Jeffery, PhD, received her BS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and PhD in biochemistry at the University of California Berkeley. After learning X-ray crystallography as a postdoctoral researcher at Brandeis University, she started her lab at the University of Illinois Chicago. The lab studies protein structure, function, and evolution using biochemistry, biophysics, and bioinformatics. She is also involved in activities promoting groups who are under-represented in STEM careers through AWIS, the Biophysical Society, and 1000Girls/1000Futures.