February 2012

Rising stars at special symposium on ATPase


This past fall, ASBMB held an ATPase Symposium in California with nearly 200 attendees and 187 abstracts. Ten “Best Presentation” awards were issued to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who presented outstanding short talks and posters. Find out more about the winners below. We look forward to continuing to support student research in 2012 and to seeing more great work from each of these awardees. For the 2012 Special Symposia Series calendar, visit www.asbmb.org/specialsymposia
 

Tara N. Rindler

Graduate student in the department of molecular genetics, biochemistry and microbiology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine; B.S. in zoology and minors in math and molecular biology, Miami University in Ohio

Q: What is your primary area of research?
My primary area of research is focused on the study of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in animal models, which will provide a comprehensive approach to study human cardiovascular diseases in a manner most likely to translate into therapeutic treatment for human patients.

Q: What led you to this kind of research?
With the high prevalence of cardiovascular disease in the United States, I became interested in the study and treatment of cardiovascular diseases early in my undergraduate career.

Q: Who has been an important role model or mentor and why? A: My mother has been and remains an important role model in my life. She has always encouraged me to reach for the stars and to pursue all my dreams.

Q: What is your career goal? 
My long-term career goal is to establish an independent research laboratory focused on hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

 


Erica Cirri

Ph.D. student at the University of Konstanz in Germany; bachelor's in chemistry and master's in chemistry of biological molecules, University of Florence in Italy

Q: What is your primary area of research?
Membrane biophysics

Q: What led you to this kind of research?
During my studies, I have been particularly fascinated by membrane proteins because of their linking role between the outside and inside the cell. My research gives me the opportunity to deal with questions related to many different scientific fields at the edge between biology, physics and chemistry.

Q: Who has been an important role model or mentor and why?
One of my role models is Rita Levi-Montalcini, the only Italian woman to ever win the Nobel prize in physiology and medicine. She is a great example of how passion and dedication can lead to incredible discoveries and an even more incredible life.

Q: What is your career goal?
My career goal is to become an expert in membrane transporters and be a reference point for the research community in this area.

 


Pontus Gourdon

Postdoc in Poul Nissen's laboratory at Aarhus University in Denmark; M.Sc. in bioengineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Ph.D. in structural biochemistry from Richard Neutze's group at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden

Q. What is your primary area of research?
Structure-function studies of membrane proteins.I am currently focusing on different P-type ATPases.

Q. What led you to this kind of research?
Structures are required for understanding the function of proteins, and they can also help in applied science, for instance for drug design. In addition, we know relatively little about the mechanisms of membrane proteins.

Q. Who has been an important role model or mentor and why?
Notably, I have had two amazing supervisors since I started my Ph.D.: Richard Neutze (during my Ph.D.) and my current supervisor, Poul Nissen. They have both been highly inspiring and great sources of new ideas and solutions to problems.

Q. What is your career goal?
Elucidating new membrane protein structures and the molecular basis for their function. 

 


Vivien R. Schack

Postdoc in the department of biomedicine at Aarhus University in Denmark; master’s in molecular biology and Ph.D. in medicine from Aarhus University

Q. What is your primary area of research?
Structure-function analysis of Na+,K+-ATPase with focus on the study of mutations associated with neurological disease.

Q. What led you to this kind of research?
My interest in protein research as such evolved during my M.Sc. studies at Aarhus University. At the end of my M.Sc. studies, I was introduced to the field of the Na+,K+-ATPase. At that time, this vital enzyme had just been identified to play a role in the development of two neurological diseases: rapid-onset dystonia parkinsonism and familial hemiplegic migraine. In order to obtain clues to understanding any existing relation between Na+,K+-ATPase functionality and pathophysiological mechanism, my Ph.D. project was designed, dealing with a functional characterization of selected disease-causing mutations.

Q. Who has been an important role model or mentor and why?
Several people that I have come across during my studies at Aarhus University have inspired and motivated me by their enthusiasm for their work. The scientific experience of my Ph.D. supervisor, as well as her interest and engagement in my work, has certainly played a significant role during my Ph.D. studies.

Q. What is your career goal?
I finished my Ph.D. studies in April 2011 and for now I enjoy my work as a postdoc. I very much hope to be able to continue doing research. 

 


Anja Pernille Einholm

Postdoc in the department of biomedicine at Aarhus University in Denmark; master’s in molecular biology from Aarhus University and Ph.D. in medicine from Aarhus University

Q. What is your primary area of research?
Structure and function of Na+,K+-ATPase. Molecular mechanisms underlying the development of neurological diseases involving Na+,K+-ATPase.

Q. What led you to this kind of research?
My general interest in proteins developed during my master of science in molecular biology, where I became fascinated by the structure-function interplay of biological molecules in the cell. My particular interest in ion pumps is a direct result of my Ph.D. studies, where I studied a subgroup of ion pumps – the so-called “P-type ATPases.” I think it is very interesting how P-type ATPases (e.g., Na+,K+-ATPase) use conformational changes fueled by ATP to promote the transport of ions across the membrane. More recently, my interest in the ion transport mechanism of these pumps has been reinforced by the implication of Na+,K+-ATPase in neurological diseases.

Q. Who has been an important role model or mentor and why?
My chemistry teacher in high school has been a great inspiration to me. His enthusiastic and motivating way of teaching chemistry has played an important role in my educational choice. Later in my career, another important source of inspiration has come from my Ph.D. supervisors who showed an enormous interest in my work and created a scientific environment that constituted a huge source of both encouragement and inspiration.

Q. What is your career goal?
My career goals are to continue research within the molecular and biomedical research field and teach students, in order to inspire them to pursue a career as a scientific researcher. 

 


Delaine Ceholski

 Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; bachelor’s with a specialization in biochemistry from the University of Alberta

Q. What is your primary area of research?
My primary area of research is studying the disease-causing mechanisms of hereditary mutations in phospholamban, a regulator of SERCA in the heart.

Q. What led you to this kind of research?
I initially became interested in membrane protein biochemistry in my final years of my undergraduate program. I was drawn to Dr. Howard Young's lab because of their interest in calcium dysregulation in heart failure and its clinical applications.

Q. Who has been an important role model or mentor and why?
I have been fortunate to have several important role models during my graduate career. I have been lucky to have inspiring teachers and excellent research supervision at the University of Alberta. Also, I have had the privilege of meeting many leaders in the fields of membrane biochemistry, P-type ATPases and molecular cardiology at the variety of international conferences that I have attended.

Q. What is your career goal?  

After defending my thesis this spring, I hope to gain international experience with a postdoctoral fellowship. Following that, I would like to pursue research opportunities either in academia or industry. 

 


Gaddiel Galarza Muñoz

Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Neurobiology at the University of Puerto Rico; bachelor’s in biology from the University of Puerto Rico

Q. What is your primary area of research?
My primary area of research is molecular neurophysiology. During my graduate studies, I have employed molecular biological and electrophysiological techniques to perform a structure-function analysis aimed to understand the adaptation of membrane proteins to cold temperatures.

Q. What led you to this kind of research?
I have always been fascinated on how the nervous system controls the human body, from basic functions such as breathing to complicated behaviors such as learning. A better understanding of how the nervous system works at the molecular level prompted me into this intriguing area of research.

Q. Who has been an important role model or mentor and why?
My adviser, Dr. Joshua Rosenthal, has been an important mentor in my young career. Throughout my Ph.D. studies, he has provided extensive guidance and has driven me to become better at what I do. However, my role model, who inspired me to pursue a research career, is Dr. Albert Einstein. Why? Simply stated… the greatest mind of all time!

Q. What is your career goal?
My career goal is to become an independent and successful bioengineer. I believe that Mother Nature does it best, so by learning from nature we can bioengineer a better world.

 


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