current research


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I am a structural biologist (although I never trained in biology – thus, labels can be misleading!), and my work aims to uncover the structural basis of cellular interactions. In my research, I ask questions about the molecular and atomic details that govern specificity in a variety of cellular interactions and that result in the amazing functional diversity observed in living organisms: How do single amino acid changes in proteins cause major conformational changes that result in different protein architectures? Are there general rules that govern protein-ligand recognition? Why are sugars frequently recognized through multi-valent and multisite interactions? What are the fundamental causes for proteins to aggregate as seen in protein deposition diseases? How do specific signaling complexes form malignancies? How does the HIV virus usurp the cellular machinery for its own purposes? These and related questions are what motivate the broad research program in my lab.

New people and fresh ideas are the lifeblood of all research groups. I encourage you to contact me directly if you have an excellent academic background in chemistry or physics and find yourself interested in the research that we are doing. Whether you are looking for an undergraduate research experience, graduate studies, or postdoctoral research opportunities, I would be happy to hear from you. I accept undergraduate students through the summer undergraduate research program and graduate students through three Graduate programs: the Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology Program (MBSB), Program in Integrative Molecular Biology (PIMB), and the Molecular Pharmacology Graduate Program.  You should consult the web pages of these excellent programs to learn more about how each works and which may be most appropriate for you. If you are interested in the interface between physics, chemistry, and biology and like to solve puzzles, then this might be a good place for you.

The members of my lab come from diverse backgrounds and from all over the world. My research group comprises postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates, all of whom bring unique perspectives to our work at the interface between biochemistry, physics, and biology. Most of the research in the lab uses Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) as a tool, augmented by X-ray crystallography, other spectroscopies, and numerous biophysical techniques. Increasingly, our work also includes cell biology for functional characterization. We try to characterize our systems in their “in vivo” context, especially those systems and protein structures that have been associated with pathologies and disease. In this context, in vivo refers to studies in living cells rather than studies using animal models.

There are three primary areas of ongoing research in the lab, including a large program dedicated to HIV structural studies; this program is embedded within the University of Pittsburgh Center for HIV Protein Interactions (PCHPI).