I study cell structures and their impact on our health. I have created a program for students to think critically; to value the intersections of science, art, and social justice; to build technical skills; to have an intuition about biology at the molecular and cellular level; and to foster lifelong curiosity. These are the scientists I want in our future.
In collaboration with the Jensen Lab at Caltech, we analyzed over 15,000 3D images of 88 bacterial species. We discovered several novel structures, including new appendages, nanospheres, filaments, bundles, chains, meshes, tubes, and vesicles. This work will not only promote new investigations into these structures and their functions, but has also shown us that there is still much to be learned about bacteria.
ESCRT – Scission by
ESCRT (Endosomal Sorting Complex Required for Transport) is a protein complex that drives membrane scission in cytokinesis and vacuolar sorting, but gets hijacked by RNA viruses like HIV. By imaging dividing archaeal cells and purified protein assemblies, I observed spiraling filaments attached to the membrane. Together with crystal structure fitting, we proposed the spiraling hourglass model.
HIV Capsid Formation
(Curled Sheet Model)
With high-resolution 3D images of HIV capsids, we observed seams and some misshapen capsids that looked like rolled sheets. Together with computer simulation experiments, we proposed the curled sheet model in which the capsid proteins first form a sheet that curls in on itself to form a fullerene cone. This structural information is important for future drug development to block HIV maturation.
Designed with Hampshire’s mission at its core, the Plasmodium Consortium is a non-partisan policy think tank at Hampshire College. The Consortium brings staff, students, and faculty from diverse disciplines together to collaborate with “non-human scholars-in-residence” Physarum polycephalum (yellow slime mold) as they seek to engage with pressing global issues from new perspectives. Using the news for inspiration, we model tough human problems using slime mold.
HIV in Thailand
We’re building cross-cultural collaboration using scientific information to empower students to make safe decisions. In order to connect what students learned in my HIV/AIDS course with the real world challenges, we travel to northern Thailand to work with Warm Heart Worldwide and other advocacy groups.
I co-founded the CMC with four other faculty members who all work with models. Our goals are to: build a research collaboration from a range of disciplines; provide an inclusive, dynamic and creative space; to develop innovative science and modeling curricula; and increase the visibility and importance of quantitative skills.
Have some questions about my research? Looking to book a speaking engagement? Looking to collaborate? Want to join the Plasmodium Consortium? Please send me a message and I'll get back to you ASAP. Thanks.