Talking About How We Talk About Science

Dyer lab members Brooke (right) and Helen (center) attended ComSciConATL with fellow third year Chemistry graduate student Mallory (left) from the Heaven lab

Last week Brooke and Helen attended the first regional ComSciCon held in the southeast, ComSciConATL. ComSciCon is a science communication workshop designed to help graduate students find unique ways to interact with the general public and more effectively communicate their science. During the two day workshop at Georgia Tech, students had the chance to interact with local STEM PhD faculty and invited speakers, learn to incorporate storytelling and humor into their science narratives, network with local science writers and activists, and even sample some cutting-edge data visualization methods. Other benefits included mock interviews, professional editing of writing samples, and a keynote speech by Joe Hanson of PBS’s “It’s Okay to be Smart.

An important theme of the conference was the use of personal stories to help humanize scientists and reach out across a diversity of audiences. Interdisciplinary collaboration and the use of multimedia and social media were all discussed as tools to not only underscore the importance of evidence-based research but also create an accessible conversation with the general public.

JACS Spotlight on T-Jump

Last week’s JACS highlighted Morgan’s recent paper, “Activity-Related Microsecond Dynamics Revealed by Temperature-Jump Förster Resonance Energy Transfer Measurements on Thermophilic Alcohol Dehydrogenase.” The Spotlight summary, included below, underscores the uniqueness of the timescales we access in our lab and the overall importance of understanding enzyme dynamics in catalysis.  Congrats on an outstanding paper, Morgan!

Making Sense of Protein Motion in Enzymes, Erika Gebel Berg (Ph.D.)

In recent years, scientists have come to appreciate that orchestrated protein motions are key drivers of enzyme activity. However, the details can be difficult to work out due to experimental limitations. Protein dynamics occur on multiple time scales, ranging from picoseconds to milliseconds, so measurement techniques must be carefully selected to probe the time scale of interest. Thomas Spiro, R. Brian Dyer, Judith Klinman, and colleagues use time-resolved temperature-jump FRET spectroscopy to probe the dynamics of thermophilic alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme model of the link between protein motion and activity (DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b12369).

Previous researches in the Klinman Lab had indicated that protein motions facilitate the enzyme’s activity at temperature above 30 °C, but the timing and position of the motions was unknown. Now, by monitoring the energy transfer between NADH, the enzyme cofactor, and a nearby tryptophan side chain, the researchers observe a fast motion involving the enzyme active site that turns on above 30 °C. The fast relaxation rate is not detected at lower temperatures where the enzyme activity is compromised. This result implicates a link between thermally equilibrated, microsecond protein motions and the creation of active site configurations that facilitate catalysis. The work is a major step forward in understanding the functional role of enzyme dynamics.

RBD visits the NIH

Last week, Dr. Dyer visited the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, at the invitation of Protein Conformation and Dynamics senior investigator Jennifer Lee. During the visit, Dyer gave a talk entitled “Membrane Protein Dynamics,” which was preceded by a poetic introduction that summarizes the research performed in our lab:

Brian studies protein conformations
Examining response to fold perturbations
Using laser pumps
To induce temperature jumps
He tracks changes in protein vibrations

Happy New Year! And the end of an era

This new year brought the Dyer Lab a new, yet familiar face, as Alexia joins the lab as a graduate research student. Following her tenure as an undergrad in the group, she will be continuing her work on protein-membrane interactions, examining the requisite dynamics for viral entry and propagation. 

The arrival of 2018 also marked the exit of Erin, our beloved group member-turned-postdoc, who has moved on to take a prestigious clinical chemistry fellowship at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.  The move embraces her past clinical experience, current chemical and biophysical expertise, and love of thoroughbred horses. 

Best of luck to both of you!

Rotation Students

As the third rotation period begins, we say goodbye and good luck to Rui, who worked with Gokul on the expression of supercharged GFP. We also welcome Sara, who will spend the next five weeks working with Monica and Bryant, team energy. Glad to have you here, Sara!

Busy Weekend for the Dyer Lab

Last weekend, Monica and Bryant traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to help with Emory Chemistry recruiting at SACNAS. While they were there, Monica also presented her research in a talk, titled “Events in Photocatalysis: Probing the Electron Transfer Mechanism at the Quantum Dot-Mediator Interface.”

Monica presenting her recent work at SACNAS in Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, Brooke, Morgan, and Rachel (Team Enzyme) traveled to Tucson, Arizona with Dr. Dyer to participate in the annual NIH Program Project Review. At the meeting, each presented their work during a poster session at the University of Arizona alongside collaborators from the labs of Dr. Steve Schwartz (U of AZ), Dr. Robert Callender (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), and Dr. Vern Schramm (Albert Einstein College of Medicine). 

(Left to right) Morgan, Brooke, and Rachel enjoying dinner with colleagues in collaborating labs.

In addition to the updates on the enzyme research, the group also received a private tour of the University’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, where the seven 8.4 meter honeycomb glass mirrors are currently being created for the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile.

Student Teacher

Morgan Vaughn, entering her fifth year here in the Dyer lab, has also begun teaching a section of general chemistry at Emory as part of the prestigious Dean’s Teaching Fellowship. The advanced student fellowship is a competitive award, granted to those who have an established record of outstanding teaching and aspire to pursue a career in education. Morgan’s course, CHEM 150, is also unique, as this semester is the first to fully implement a revamped chemistry curriculum, “Chemistry Unbound,” where material is presented in a more conceptual, non-traditional order, and group work and student interaction are strongly emphasized.  

In addition to completing the necessary experiments and writing of her dissertation, Morgan designs and delivers lectures, hosts office hours, and writes her own exams. After completing her Ph.D., she hopes to pursue a teaching career at a predominantly undergraduate university, where her experience at Emory will undoubtedly prove valuable.

Best of luck for a great year, Morgan!

Day One of Rotations!

The Dyer lab welcomes Alexia and Aimee for their first rotation of the semester. Both will be working on protein folding, with postdoc Erin and senior graduate student Sam as mentors. Best of luck to both of you!

Congratulations, Dr. Chica!

Bryant successfully defended (and showed up on time for!) his thesis on July 26, 2017, titled “Semiconductor Nanoparticle-Protein Hybrid Systems for Solar Hydrogen Production and Photo-Triggered Mechanistic Studies.” Congrats, Bryant!

The Unveiling

Welcome to the new website! The Dyer lab joined Emory WordPress Sites, which allows us to elegantly showcase our ongoing research, provide information about our talented graduate students and staff, and maintain a news blog of important lab events. Check back for updates!