Yang Liu successfully defended his thesis, “Developing Nanoparticle-based Tools to Investigate Mechanotransduction at the Living/Nonliving Interface” on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016. Yang’s thesis committee was led by Khalid Salaita with Vince Conticello and Tianquan Lian as additional members. Yang receive the 2016 Quayle Outstanding Student Award in recognition of his work at Emory. After graduation, Yang will be a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Dr. Taekjip Ha at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore, MD.
Yun Zhang successfully defended her thesis, “Development of DNA-based Molecular Tension Probes to Investigate Integrin Mechanical Forces” on Monday, July 18th, 2016. Yun’s thesis committee was led by Khalid Salaita with Brian Dyer and Stefan Lutz as additional members. Yun will stay on at Emory as a postdoctoral scholar in the Salaita Lab. In the fall, she will begin a position as the manager of an instrument center in the Department of Chemistry at Sichuan University in China.
Complicated systems of communication are at the center of Roxanne Glazier’s research. She is developing novel methods to elucidate the mechanobiology of podosomes, protrusive structures that allow cells to migrate through tissue. “More broadly, these methods can be applied to the study of receptor mechanics in almost any cell-cell or cell-matrix interaction,” explains Roxanne. It turns out cells “talk” about a lot of things—cell development, coagulation, remodeling, and the immune response, to name a few.
Roxanne’s own path through graduate school is not without its complexities. She is a student in Emory and Georgia Tech’s joint Biomedical Engineering Program. Her “home base” lab is in chemistry under the leadership of Khalid Salaita. However, she completed coursework at both institutions and completed her Teaching Assistant duties at Tech. While these distinctions govern logistics rather the science itself, students have to be motivated and well-organized to balance such a wide range of influences and opportunities.
Luckily, Roxanne is well-suited to the challenge. “The word that comes to mind when I think of Roxanne is persistence,” says Khalid Salaita. “She has really focused an enormous amount of energy in applying advanced fluorescence spectroscopy techniques to understand important fundamental questions in the area of cell biology. The methods she is developing will be broadly important to understanding how living systems harness molecular tugs for cellular communication and sensing their environment.”
Recently, Roxanne’s research was recognized with the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship seeks to support promising scientists at the very beginning of their careers, offering three years of tuition assistance and stipend support alongside access to a wide range of professional development programs. Roxanne is excited about the opportunity to draw on this support as part of her ongoing exploration of future career options. “I came to grad school completely set on entering academia, but recently I’ve been learning about exciting opportunities in biotech and cell therapy industry,” she says. “For right now I’m keeping an open mind and looking into all options.”
Roxanne credits strong mentoring in BME with helping her succeed in the NSF GRFP competition—17,000 students applied this year for 2,000 awards. “More than 50 percent of the eligible BME students in my cohort have received the NSF GRFP. I think that speaks very highly to the quality of students that Emory (and Tech) attracts.” The national average, Glazier points out, is closer to ten percent of applicants.
Another benefit of Roxanne’s interdisciplinary perspective is the creativity it brings into her work. “My background is in physics and biology, but I’m studying biomedical engineering in a chemistry lab. It’s been exciting to interact with scientists and engineers with diverse skill sets and approaches to problem solving,” she says.
Using that creative lens, Roxanne helped to design a hands-on science activity booth for the Atlanta Science Festival’s Exploration Expo, the yearly capstone to the week-long event held in Olympic Centennial Park. The booth, “Fun with Ferrofluids”, has been a successful addition to the festival two years running. “Activities like these bring science to the general public and I think these experiences really strengthened my application.”
Congratulations to Robert Kubiak (Davies Group) and Roxanne Galzier (Salaita Group) for being awarded 2016 Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation! Robert is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Roxanne is a graduate student in the Emory/Ga Tech joint Biomedical Engineering program.
Congratulations also to Anthony Sementilli (Chemistry, Lynn Group) and Aaron Blanchard (BME, Salaita Group) who received Honorable Mentions.
For the 2016 competition, NSF received close to 17,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.
Deal of 2015:Bristol-Myers Squibb – CXCR4 Antagonists
Dennis Liotta (chemistry) and Lawrence Wilson and Michael Natchus (Emory Institute for Drug Discovery)
CXCR4 protein expression is low or absent in many healthy tissues, but it was shown to be expressed in more than 20 types of cancer, including prostate, ovarian and breast cancer, and melanoma. Emory researchers have developed small molecules that act as antagonists to CXCR4 and may be orally administered.
CXCR4 antagonists are known to block adhesion, replication and outgrowth of HIV and can mobilize white blood cells. In 2015, Emory executed a high net worth license for the technology and research collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Innovation of 2015:Motion-based Detection by DNA Machines
Khalid Salaita (chemistry)
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) genotyping is the screening and analysis of genetic variations of SNPs, which are common in all species including humans. SNP genotyping and analysis technology can analyze thousands of SNPs and has the potential for whole-genome genotyping. DNA-based machines have potential in several applications and industries, but DNA machines called “walkers” are challenging to work with due to their low fidelity and slow rates.
Emory inventors have developed a DNA-based machine that converts chemical energy into controlled motion. Because these DNA-based machines “roll” rather than “walk,” they are able to surpass the maximum speed of existing DNA motors by three orders of magnitude. This technology can serve as a new and powerful tool in SNP genotyping, as well as other applications in diagnostics, drug delivery and biomaterials.
Hongjin Lv successfully defended his thesis, “Polyoxometalate-based Multi-Electron-Transfer Catalysts for Solar Energy Conversion” on Friday, September 4th, 2015. Hongjin’s thesis committee was led by Craig Hill with Cora MacBeth and Khalid Salaita as additional members. Hongjin will being a postdoc with Richard Eisenberg at the University of Rochester on September 1st.
The Emory University Department of Chemistry congratulates Kevin Yehl on successfully defending his thesis, “Fundamental properties and applications of surface confined enzymes in gene regulation and molecular motors.”
Erin Schuler successfully defended her thesis, “Investigating fundamental mechanisms of peptide insertion into membranes” on Friday, July 10th, 2015. Erin’s thesis committee was led by Brian Dyer with Vince Conticello and Khalid Salaita as additional members. Erin plans to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship.