Olson Expert on X-ray Crystallography, Membrane Proteins

Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is teaching a class on membrane properties, structural techniques and protein structure analysis.

Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is teaching a class on membrane properties, structural techniques and protein structure analysis.

Rich Olson joined the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry as an assistant professor.

Olson is an expert on X-ray crystallography and biophysical characterization of soluble/membrane proteins. He specifically studies the structure and function of membrane proteins in the nervous system, immunological molecules in the nervous system and structural biology of pathogen virulence factors.

This semester, he is teaching a course titled “Receptors, Channels, and Pumps: Advanced Topics in Membrane Protein Structure and Function,” and an individual undergraduate research tutorial.

When applying to Wesleyan, Olson says he was looking for an institution that would provide a balance between teaching and research.

“Wesleyan has a tradition of strong undergraduate education as well as a vibrant graduate program essential to supporting my research,” Olson says. “Having the graduate program allows me to tackle advanced research projects and gives undergraduates a larger role in my lab than they might have at a large research university. This is something very unique to Wesleyan.”

Prior to Wesleyan, Olson worked as a Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. He studied “Structure and function of G protein-coupled receptors and associated MHC molecules.”

Olson has a Bachelor of Arts in biology and biochemistry from Cornell University and a Ph.D from Columbia University in biochemistry and molecular biophysics. His dissertation involved studying the structure and function of pore forming toxins and ionotropic glutamate receptors.

He is the author of 11 articles including “Three-dimensional structure of the detergent-solubilized Vibrio cholerae cytolysin heptamer by electron cryomicroscopy,” published in the Journal of Structural Biology, 2009; and “The crystal structure of CHIR-AB1: a primordial avian classical Fc receptor,” published in the Journal of Molecular Biology in 2008.

Outside of Wesleyan, Olson enjoys reading, hiking, running and listening to music. He plays trombone, piano, and from his days at Cornell, the carillon/chimes. His wife, Sarah Richardson, was recently hired at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. They reside in Springfield, Mass.