Spotlight-1

Spotlights 2022


June 2022 Spotlight
Krishna Rajarathnam

 

I am a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and started my career in UTMB as an assistant professor more than 20 years ago. We are interested in the very early events of how the host immune system responds to microbial infection. In particular, my lab studies the molecular mechanisms by which chemokines, a family of inflammatory proteins, orchestrate leukocyte migration from the blood to the infected tissue to eliminate the pathogens. We address these questions at a molecular, cellular, and systems level, using tools and methods in protein biochemistry and engineering, solution biophysics, computational biology, solution NMR spectroscopy, and animal models. You can find more about our work at our website (https://bmb.utmb.edu/people/faculty/bios/rajarathnam).


Rodecap

May 2022 Spotlight
Valerie Rodecap

 

Valerie is the Director of Business Operations and works closely with Dr. Mariano Garcia-Blanco toward the mission of the department.  Her scope includes supporting Faculty, Staff and Students in their research and education and maintaining successful operations in the department.   She serves as a liaison with Provost Office, Faculty Relations, HR, and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences for various processes along with many other administrative matters.  Valerie is from Kansas and has past professional experiences from working in an investment brokerage firm, as well as clinic and hospital settings.  She has been in the BMB for 6 years.   Valerie enjoys her career at UTMB and especially in BMB because it is motivating to be a part of a goal driven department that strives to be the best and recognizes the outstanding talent of our faculty and staff which makes everything, we do here meaningful. 

 


April 2022 Spotlight
Dr. Andy (Andrzej) Kudlicki

I am a computational biologist, interested in various aspects of transcriptional and epigenetic regulation in disease and development. I joined UTMB in 2009, after a postdoc in UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX. My effort is divided between original research at BMB and collaborative projects conducted within the Informatics Service Center at the Institute for Translational Sciences.

The long-term goal of my research is to understand how and why transcription factor binding sites are selected and how chromatin modifications are directed to specific sites, depending on the time, cell type and environmental factors. In human and other vertebrates, the numbers of metameric segments in each region of the spine, as well as the total number of vertebrae are highly conserved, for example almost all mammals have exactly seven cervical vertebrae. The identity of body segments depends on the Hox transcription factors, that are in turn controlled by chromatin modifications, but it has been unknown how chromatin state is regulated in a robust, segment-specific manner.

 I have discovered a regulatory element (HRC3 motif) that is responsible for recruiting histone demethylases to the correct loci, and I have proposed a mechanism that allows cells to obtain and store the segmental information in digital form, and to produce a pattern of chromatin accessibility that in turn regulates Hox gene expression. The finding explains how counting of segments is performed by the developing embryo, and how the numbers are encoded in the genome. My model of segmental identity allows correctly predicting the numbers of segments in a vertebrate using only sequence information; it also resolves the 40-year-old enigma of the function of temporal and spatial collinearity of Hox genes.

Currently, I am working on expanding the model of segmental identity into a more complete theory that explains multiple aspects of evolutionary developmental biology. I am exploring a connection between this process and certain diseases, including Huntington's Disease, and autosomal dominant Spinocerebellar ataxias. Before I became a computational biologist, I used to do research in astrophysics, working on motions of clusters of galaxies and estimating the total mass of the Universe. When I am not in the lab, you might find me windsurfing on Galveston Bay, taking night-time photographs, or playing at a local bridge tournament. (Twitter @aanzelm)


Dr. White

March 2022 Spotlight
Dr. Mark White

 

My major interests include developing the tools of Structural Biology, the pursuit of novel macromolecular structures and complexes, and their functional analysis. I employ single crystal x-ray crystallography and solution macromolecular small angle x-ray scattering (BioSAXS) to determine the structure and function of macromolecules, their complexes, and inhibitors. In varied structural collaborations I have studied: a number of flavivirus proteins, the DNA packaging motor assembly used by Phage, the assembly of amyloid and self-assembling nanoparticle fibrils, structural changes to the cAMP-binding proteins CRP and EPAC, domain assembly in synaptic proteins, protein-DNA interactions, cytochrome P450 inhibition, and the repurposing of drugs to target the SARS-CoV-2 nsp13 helicase. While crystallography offers high resolution detail of a molecule and its interactions many structural studies are limited by the possible: the study of static structures. BioSAXS opens up an avenue to the study of dynamic and even unstructured molecules of almost any size, from disaccharides to viral particles. At it’s simplest the assembly, oligomerization state, or domain organization can be confirmed, determined, or modeled. At its most complex the distribution of multiple conformational states may be determined.  BioSAXS offers a tool for the validation of Molecular Dynamics simulations, which in reciprocity provides molecular models for the analysis of SAXS data. BioSAXS analysis is a powerful addition to any structural study, be it crystallography, electron microscopy, or NMR.

 

 


Eric Wang

February 2022 Spotlight
Dr. Yu-Hsiu (Eric) Wang

I am from Taiwan and I’m a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I carry out my research within the Dr. Michael Sheetz’ research group. Fascinated by the world of phosphoinositide lipids, I developed a great interest in the signaling of phosphoinositide lipids not only in the plasma membrane but also in the nucleus, which involves early DNA damage signaling, genotoxic stress sensing and RNA processing. My research focus sits on the dynamics and molecular basis of nuclear lipid signaling in early DNA damage repair. Tumor suppressor p53, which was discovered as a nuclear phosphoinositide-binding partner in 2019, also became an important part of my study. In collaboration with Dr. David Lane, who discovered p53 in 1979, we characterized a transcription-independent activity of p53 which involves rapid damaged DNA sensing and correlates with its tumor suppressive function. My ultimate goal is to characterize nuclear lipid biology and understand how lipids regulate protein functions in the nucleus. I believe this knowledge will provide us a different handle in fighting genome instability, cancer and relevant diseases.

As a microscopist, I enjoy photography, filming and editing. The sunrise and sunset at Galveston beach is amazing.


M_Ward

January 2022 Spotlight
Dr. Michelle Ward

I joined BMB and UTMB as an Assistant Professor in 2020. My lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms of global transcriptional regulation, and the control of tissue-specific gene expression in the context of cardiovascular development, stress and disease. We consider variation between human individuals as well as variation between species to tackle this problem using induced pluripotent stem cell and next-generation sequencing technologies. My research journey started in Cape Town, and continued on via Cambridge and Chicago – I broke the string of cities starting with “C” when starting at UTMB! I do enjoy working on an island and being able to look out at the gulf and palm trees every day though. You can find out more about our lab and research here (https://www.ward-lab.org/) or follow me on Twitter (@michelle_c_ward).