Tag Archive for biophysics

Broker ’66 Speaks on Infectious Disease, Cancer at Biophysics Retreat, Public Seminar

Tom Broker ’66, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Burlington, delivered a public science seminar titled "Infectious Disease Pandemics and Cancer" on Sept. 30. He was joined by Rich Olson, Ishita Mukerji, and Jan Naege, who provided an introduction. 

Tom Broker ’66, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Burlington, delivered a public science seminar titled “Infectious Disease Pandemics and Cancer” on Sept. 30. He was joined by Rich Olson, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and Jan Naegele, Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division, Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science.

Broker is an expert on Human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which are sexually-transmitted diseases of viral origin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 million Americans become infected each year, and HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women. Broker has been involved in the development and validation of topical agents to treat the virus and is the founding President of the Human Papillomavirus Society.

Broker is an expert on human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which are sexually-transmitted diseases of viral origin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 million Americans become infected each year, and HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women. Broker has been involved in the development and validation of topical agents to treat the virus and is the founding president of the Human Papillomavirus Society.

tom

“This one was actually a bit of a surprise to me, and if this was data-based on prevalence and macroeconomic status, and I fully expected that the low ‘this is human development index’ would be the place where the worst . . . and it was the worst in the richest countries, at least by what the data shows,” Broker said. “China has a tremendous prevalence, as does India, as a single country, but in the wealthy areas of North America, and Europe and East Asia, papillomaviruses’ prevalence is very high and would benefit immensely from training and treatment, and in the long run, a vaccine could prevent it.”

During the 21st annual Molecular Biophysics Virtual Retreat on Sept. 28, Tom Broker ’66, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Burlington, delivered the keynote address titled "HPV—Host Cell Interactions and Anti-Viral Drug Discovery in 3D-Tissue Systems. "Generally from infection to someone getting a HPV cancer, like cervical cancer, is 20 years, so these viruses are persistent, they’re opportunistic, a little bit of damage every once and a while tips them closer and closer to overexpression, and eventually the failures of the defense responses and the overexpression of the virus drive us down the cancer pathway," he said.

Broker also delivered the 21st annual Molecular Biophysics Virtual Retreat keynote address titled “HPV—Host Cell Interactions and Anti-Viral Drug Discovery in 3D-Tissue Systems” on Sept. 28. “Generally, from infection to someone getting a HPV cancer, like cervical cancer, is 20 years, so these viruses are persistent, they’re opportunistic; a little bit of damage every once and a while tips them closer and closer to over-expression, and eventually the failures of the defense responses and the over-expression of the virus drive us down the cancer pathway,” he said.

bio p retreat

The annual retreat, which is open to all faculty and students, was sponsored by the Molecular Biophysics Program and the Biology, Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and Physics departments. Broker was joined by Olson, Mukerji, and Donald Oliver, Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Several students presented virtual poster sessions during the retreat including Oliver Cho '22, a chemistry and philosophy double major; Jack Kwon '21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and College of Integrative Sciences double major; Carol Dalgarno ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and Science in Society double major; and Rujun Yan ’21, a computer science and math double major.

Several students presented virtual poster sessions during the retreat, including Oliver Cho ’22, a chemistry and philosophy double major; Jack Kwon ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and College of Integrative Sciences double major; Carol Dalgarno ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and Science in Society double major; and Rujun Yan ’21, a computer science and math double major.

Oliver Cho

Oliver Cho presented “Modifying a Mini Protein with Two Conformational States to Instead Adopt Only One Conformation.” (Click to enlarge)

GCN Sensitive Protein Translation in Yeast

Jack Kwon presented “GCN Sensitive Protein Translation in Yeast.” (Click to enlarge)

Carol Dalgarno

Carol Dalgarno presented “Molecular Dynamics Studies of the Ribosome CAR Surface.” (Click to enlarge)

Rujun Yan

Rujun Yan presented “A Promising Machine Learning Tool for the Permeability of Alpha Helical Peptide.” (Click to enlarge)

Molecular Biophysics Program Hosts 20th Annual Retreat

MBB

Three Wesleyan faculty, one guest, and one alumnus delivered talks during the 20th Annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat on Sept. 26. The speakers included David Beveridge, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, Emeritus; Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry; Michael LeVine ’11 of D.E. Shaw Research; and Laverne Melón, assistant professor of biology.

On Sept. 26, the Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 20th Annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Several Wesleyan faculty, students, and guests attended the all-day event, which included five talks, two poster sessions, and a reception.

Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, delivered the keynote address, titled “Hsp70s: Allosteric Machines that Perform a Multitude of Cellular Functions.” Gierasch, a leader in the field of protein folding, is a newly elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Her work focuses particularly on folding in the cell and understanding the action of folding helper proteins, known as chaperones. Her career-long contributions were recently recognized by the American Peptide Society with a lifetime achievement honor, the Merrifield Award. She is also a recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Ralph F. Hirschmann Award in Peptide Chemistry, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is currently editor-in-chief of the premier biochemical publication, the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

19th Annual Biophysics Retreat Includes Speakers, Poster Sessions

Wesleyan faculty, students, alumni and guests participated in the 19th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion.

Wesleyan faculty, students, alumni, and guests attended the 19th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion. The event included a series of speakers, two poster sessions, and a keynote address.

Alison O’Neil, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke on "Investigating the toxicity of SOD1 aggregates in a stem cell-derived model of ALS." Research in the O'Neil lab is focused on understanding the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS.  Utilizing human stem cells allows us to study the unique cell types associated with disease. 

Alison O’Neil, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke on “Investigating the toxicity of SOD1 aggregates in a stem cell-derived model of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Research in the O’Neil lab is focused on understanding the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS.

Starr Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

Francis Starr

Francis Starr

Francis Starr, professor of physics, was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society in October. This honor is bestowed upon only 0.5 percent of physicists nation wide.

The criterion for election is “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise including outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.

Starr received the APS fellowship for his simulation studies elucidating fundamental aspects of glass formation in bulk and ultra-thin film polymer materials. At Wesleyan, the Starr group focuses on soft matter physics and biophysics. Starr and his graduate and undergraduate students combine computational and theoretical methods to explore lipid membranes, glass formation, DNA nanotechnology, polymers and supercooled water.

Starr also is professor and director of the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS) and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. The CIS is dedicated to providing students with translational and interdisciplinary science education through original research. The CIS summer research program hosts around 180 students annually.

Starr is the seventh Wesleyan faculty to receive the honor since 1921. He was nominated by the Division of Polymer Physics.

Speakers, Poster Sessions at Annual Molecular Biophysics Program Retreat

Wesleyan’s Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 18th annual retreat Sept. 28 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Wesleyan affiliated speakers included:

Professor Francis Starr, spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

Professor Francis Starr spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

  • Colin Smith, assistant professor of chemistry, on “An Atomistic View of Protein Dynamics and Allostery;”
  • Meng-Ju Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics, on “Tracking Electron Motions Using Terahertz Spectroscopy;”
  • Kelly Knee, PhD ’07, principle scientist for Pfizer’s Rare Disease Research Unit, on “Protein Folding Chaperones: Molecular Machines for Tricky Problems;”
  • and Francis Starr, professor of physics, director of the College of Integrative Sciences, on “DNA Four-Way Junction Dynamics and Thermodynamics: Lessons from Combining Simulations and Experiments.”

Arthur Palmer, the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, delivered the keynote address on “Conformational dynamics in molecular recognition and catalysis: Lessons from ribonuclease H, AlkB, and GCN4.”

The day-long retreat also included two poster sessions, where undergraduates, graduate students and faculty shared their research with their peers and colleagues. The event concluded with a reception.

The Molecular Biophysics Training Program, Chemistry Department, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department sponsored the event.

Photos of the retreat are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Chemistry, Physics Students Attend Biomedical Research Conference

Contributed photo

From Nov. 9-12, two faculty members and five students from the physics and chemistry departments, attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Tampa, Fla.

Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics, and Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, were joined by McNair Scholars Luz Mendez ’17, Tatianna Pryce ’17, Stacy Uchendu ’17 and Hanna Morales ’17; and Wesleyan Mathematics and Science (WesMaSS) Scholar Helen Karimi ’19.

Students observed other research being performed around the nation by students who are members of underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In addition, the Wesleyan students presented their own research and Morales and Karimi were awarded Outstanding Poster Presentation Awards.

“Through the PIE Initiative, Wesleyan has a deliberate strategy to support underrepresented students and faculty in STEM fields by providing resources that increasing post-Wesleyan mentorship and exposure to research excellence, all of which were fulfilled through this conference,” said Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/Title IX officer. “It cannot go without saying that without Professor Taylor’s and Professor Etson’s holistic mentorship approach, these type of opportunities for our young scholars would not be possible.”

RNA Splicing, Student Research Discussed at Biophysics, Biological Chemistry Retreat

The Molecular Biophysics Program, the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry hosted the 17th Annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat on Sept. 29 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown.

The event included several talks by Wesleyan faculty and two student research poster presentations.

Professor Anna Pyle delivered the keynote address titled “Structural and Mechanistic Insights into RNA Splicing.” Pyle is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the William Edward Gilbert Professor in the Departments of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Chemistry at Yale University. Pyle studies the structure and function of large RNA molecules and RNA remodeling enzymes. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 1997 and the author of more than 150 publications, she uses a diverse set of biochemical and biophysical techniques, including crystallography and chemical probing, to understand the structural complexity of RNA architecture.

Photos of the retreat are below: (Photos by Will Barr ’19 and Gabi Hurlock ’20)

Biophysics Retreat at Wadsworth Mansion Sept 29, 2016. (Photo by Gabi Hurlock)

Faculty Talks, Poster Sessions During Molecular Biophysics Retreat

Wesleyan President Michael Roth attended the Molecular Biophysics Retreat Oct. 22 and spoke to students and graduate students about their ongoing research.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth attended the Molecular Biophysics Retreat Oct. 22 and spoke to students and graduate students about their ongoing research.

The Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 16th annual retreat Oct. 22 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. The day-long event included two poster sessions and talks by three Wesleyan faculty and two guests. The event also allowed students and faculty to discuss their current research.

Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, delivered a talk on “Understanding membrane specificity in a family of bacterial pore-forming toxins.”

Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology, spoke on “The role of gene regulatory network structure in genome evolution.”

Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics, spoke on “A Single-molecule Toolkit: Using TIRF Microscopy to Study Molecular Interactions and Dynamics.”

Haribabu Arthanari, a lecturer of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School, presented a talk titled “Therapeutic Targeting of Protein-Protein Interactions Part -1: Deciphering the protein landscape by NMR Spectroscopy.”

Keynote speaker John Kuriyan is interested in the structure and mechanism of the enzymes and molecular switches that carry out cellular signal transduction and DNA replication. He uses x-ray crystallography to determine the structures of proteins involved in signaling and replication.

Keynote speaker John Kuriyan is interested in the structure and mechanism of the enzymes and molecular switches that carry out cellular signal transduction and DNA replication. He uses X-ray crystallography to determine the structures of proteins involved in signaling and replication.

The event’s keynote speaker was John Kuriyan, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor of molecular and cell biology and chemistry at the University of California-Berkeley. Kuriyan spoke on “Structural Mechanisms in Protein Kinase Regulation.”

The event was sponsored by the NIGMS Molecular Biophysics Training Grant GM08271, Department of Chemistry and Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. (Photos by Jennifer Langdon)

eve_biop_2015-1022002

HIV Discoverer Levy ’60 Delivers Biophysics Retreat Keynote Address

Wesleyan’s Molecular Biophysics Program Hosted its 15th Annual Retreat Sept. 18 at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Wesleyan faculty and alumni delivered talks at the day-long event. (Photos by Jennifer Langdon)

Jay Levy '60 M.D., professor of medicine and research associate at the Cancer Research Institute at the University of California, School of Medicine at San Francisco (UCSF), delivered the keynote address titled "HIV Discovery to Research Achievements and Future Challenges."

Jay Levy ’60 M.D., professor of medicine and research associate at the Cancer Research Institute at the University of California, School of Medicine at San Francisco (UCSF), delivered the keynote address titled “HIV Discovery to Research Achievements and Future Challenges.”

When Water “Unmixes”: Starr Commentary Published in Nature Physics

Water is the most ubiquitous fluid on Earth, and plays a foundational role in life as we know it.  And yet the complexity of this seemingly simple molecule remains a vigorously debated area of scientific research to this day.  Writing in the most recent issue of Nature Physics, Professor of Physics Francis Starr provides a commentary on recent research to uncover the mystery of water’s unusual properties.  

Francis Starr

Francis Starr

“We all learn as children that oil and water don’t mix,” Starr writes. ” If there was only one fluid – say just the water – then “unmixing” should not even be a possibility.  However, it turns out that evidence suggests that, under unusual supercooled conditions, water can unmix from itself, forming two distinct fluids, both of which are pure water.  And it turns out this unusual behavior just might help explain many of water’s other unusual and vital features.”

Nature Physics, part of the prestigious group of Nature journals, is published monthly.

Starr’s research at Wesleyan focuses on computational approaches to understand the emergent complexity of soft and biological matter.  His lab has explored DNA modeling and nanotechnology, lipid membrane dynamics, and polymer films and composites. Undergraduates and graduate students work together in the Starr lab, emphasizing connections to experimental results.

Graduate Students, Faculty Attend 2014 Biophysical Society Meeting

Several graduate students and faculty from the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, Chemistry Department, and the Molecular Biophysics Program presented their research at the 2014 Annual Biophysical Society meeting in San Francisco, Calif. Feb. 15-19.

The Biophysical Society encourages development and dissemination of knowledge in biophysics through meetings, publications and committee outreach activities. Every year, the society holds an annual meeting that brings together more than 6,000 research scientists in different fields representing biophysics.

Wesleyan graduate students, from left, Katie Kaus, Stephen Frayne, Yan Li, Shu Zhang, Anushi Sharma and Harikrushan Ranpura, presented research at the the Biophysical Society meeting.

Wesleyan graduate students, from left, Katie Kaus, Stephen Frayne, Yan Li, Shu Zhang, Anushi Sharma and Harikrushan Ranpura, presented research at the the Biophysical Society meeting.