19th Annual Biophysics Retreat Includes Speakers, Poster Sessions

Wesleyan faculty, students, alumni and guests participated in the 19th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion.

Wesleyan faculty, students, alumni, and guests attended the 19th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion. The event included a series of speakers, two poster sessions, and a keynote address.

Alison O’Neil, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke on "Investigating the toxicity of SOD1 aggregates in a stem cell-derived model of ALS." Research in the O'Neil lab is focused on understanding the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS.  Utilizing human stem cells allows us to study the unique cell types associated with disease. 

Alison O’Neil, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke on “Investigating the toxicity of SOD1 aggregates in a stem cell-derived model of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Research in the O’Neil lab is focused on understanding the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS.

Graduate student Bakar Hassan speaks to Professor of Biology Stephen Devoto about his research titled “Exploring Glycodiversification through Domain Swapping of Heptosyltranferase V11.” Devoto is also professor, neuroscience and behavior.

Graduate student Miles DeAngelis discusses his poster, “The Hippo Pathway component Mask as a novel regulator of cell adhesion and morphogenesis.” DeAngelis is a member of the Graduate Community Standards Board for Biology.

Alexa Strauss ’19 explains her poster, “Investigation of the Relative Activity of Monomer and Dimer SecYEG Translocons.”

Meagan MacDonald, a PhD student in molecular biology and biochemistry, presents her poster, “Purification and Kinetics Studies of Xylanase A to Elucidate the Mechanism Through Which Pseudo-Allosteric Site Mutations Modify Activity” to Sudipta Lahiri, a recent graduate.

At left, Angel Garcia, director of the Center for Nonlinear Studies at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, listens to Grant Tillinghast ’19 discuss his poster titled “Kinetic Ensemble Refinement Improves Protein NMR Structures.” Garcia presented the retreat’s keynote address titled “Uncovering the dynamics of a Molecular Switch: Atomistic Simulations of the interaction of KRas with membranes.”

Graduate student Anna Rogers presents her poster titled, “The histone variant H2A.Z promotes chromosome condensation Saccharomyces cerevisiae.”

Mukshud Ahamed ’19 presents his poster titled “Investigating Putative tRNA Modifying Enzymes.”

Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, speaks to Angel Garcia at the retreat. Mukerji also is professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; professor and director, College of Integrative Sciences; professor, environmental studies; coordinator, health studies; and co-coordinator, molecular biophysics. In the foreground is Scott Holmes, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and professor, integrative sciences.

Amy MacQueen, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, asks a question during the retreat.

Other speakers included Carlos Jiménez-Hoyos, assistant professor of chemistry, who spoke on “Insights into the chemistry of Iron-Sulfur Proteins from Electronic Structure Calculations”; Jane Withka PhD ’92 of Pfizer, who spoke on “Pushing the Boundaries of Structural Biology and Biophysics in Pharmaceutical Industry”; and Kelly Thayer PhD ‘04, visiting assistant professor of computer science, who spoke on “Ensemble Networks for Allosteric Design.” The event was hosted by the Molecular Biophysics Training Program, the Department of Chemistry, and the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department. (Photos by Olivia Drake)