ASBMB spotlights members from developing and emerging countries.
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, like the science it represents, truly is an international entity. Most of the society’s nearly 12,000 members have some connection to the global scientific community; some were born or trained abroad, others have mentored foreign students in their labs, and many have no doubt gone abroad for collaborations, sabbaticals or conferences. And of course, numerous ASBMB members carry out their research endeavors at institutions outside of the U.S. In recognition of this global reach, ASBMB Today once again presents profiles of some of our international scientists, this time focusing on those who deal with the challenges and opportunities of working in emerging scientific nations.
Institute of Molecular Biosciences
Mahidol University, Thailand
“I’m not a big fan of heat and humidity,” Albert Ketterman confesses. Of course, making that confession from his office at Mahidol University’s Institute of Molecular Biosciences in Bangkok – where Ketterman has been since 1996 – might seem odd.
Although the tropical climes of Thailand admittedly were not an anticipated destination for Ketterman while he was an undergraduate biochemistry major at the University of California, Riverside, he has adapted well to the unusual circumstances that have brought him here.
Shortly after Ketterman began working in a lab at the University of California, San Francisco, the lab head was killed in an automobile accident, throwing the lab into chaos. Ketterman received an offer to work with Susan Pond, though she warned him that her husband might receive a department chair back in her native Australia, which would uproot her lab. Ketterman accepted, and before he knew it, he was a graduate student looking, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
His graduate work entailed analyzing mammalian carboxylesterases and glutathione transferases, enzymes found in copious amounts in the liver that help break down various xenobiotics. That led to a postdoctoral position in the entomology department at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where Ketterman applied his knowledge of these conserved enzyme families to look at the role of GSTs and carboxylesterases in mosquito insecticide resistance.
But during a second postdoc at Imperial College London, Ketterman developed an interest in c-Jun N-terminal protein kinases, which respond to external stimuli and regulate processes like cell growth and apoptosis. “I had hoped to continue this area of research as faculty, but finding a position proved fruitless, because schools were looking for someone with 10 years of JNK experience as opposed to only two,” he says.
A Thai student in Ketterman’s lab overheard his plight and noted that Mahidol University had a job opening that would fit Ketterman’s skill and expertise with malaria enzymology, bringing the intrepid researcher to where he is today.