Wesleyan portrait of Candice M. Etson

Candice M. Etson

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Hall-Atwater Laboratories, 161

Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Hall-Atwater Laboratories, 161

Assistant Professor, Integrative Sciences

Hall-Atwater Laboratories, 161

Assistant Professor, Physics

Hall-Atwater Laboratories, 161


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BA New York University
BFA New York University
PHD Harvard University

Candice M. Etson

My research group studies interactions between proteins and DNA at the single-molecule level using Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and Forster Resonance Energy Tranfer (FRET). 

Proteins and DNA constantly interact with one another and are inextricably linked by the Central Dogma and the critical need for maintenance and faithful transfer of genomic information from mother to daughter cells. It is therefore not surprising that aberrant protein-DNA interactions play a major role in the disease process of cancer, and are implicated in a growing number of other diseases. Most established techniques for studying protein-DNA interactions are heavily biased toward stable, long-lived interactions. Yet many important interactions are transient and dynamic, and therefore difficult to observe and characterize using these methods. Furthermore, the mechanisms of many proteins that modify DNA are poorly understood. Studies of these proteins at the single-molecule level have already provided insights into protein-DNA interactions and they have the potential to offer much more.

Our goal is to develop new tools and approaches for the study of proteins that interact with and/or modify DNA utilizing fluorescence spectroscopy and single-molecule fluorescence microscopy. In the process, we also hope to address some fundamental questions about the nature of bimolecular interactions and catalysis at the single molecule level.

I was born and raised in Dayton, OH, home of the Wright brothers. I trained as a ballet dancer from childhood, performed with the Dayton Ballet Company as a trainee during high school, and was briefly a full company member before my ballet career was cut short by injury. I studied dance and choreography at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and performed, choreographed, and taught dance for several years. After I retired from perfoming, I studied physics at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where I was a MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) Fellow. I went on to recieve my PhD in biophysics from Harvard University, where I was advised in my dissertation research (Single-Molecule Studies of Novel Protein-DNA Interactions) by Antoine van Oijen. I recieved a TEACRS (Training in Education and Critical Research Skills) Fellowship to support my postdoctoral research into restriction endonuclease-mediated DNA cleavage in David Walt's lab at Tufts University. As a member of the Walt lab, I also served as technical advisor, lab supervisor, and lecturer for a SEPA (Science Education Partnership Award) funded progam called BIOSEQ (Bioinformatics Inquiry through SEQuencing) which introduced next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics to high school students. Prior to joining the physics faculty at Wesleyan, I also taught physics and astronomy courses at Emmanuel College and University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Fall 2021: Mondays from 3:30 - 5:30 pm


Fall 2021
PHYS 207 - 01
Intro to Biophysics

Spring 2022
PHYS 316 - 01
Thermal/Statistical Physics