UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate students Brendan Amer and Jeff Vinokur have been selected as 2016 Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science.
They will present their research at the Molecular Biology Institute (MBI) Annual Retreat on April 22 & 23, 2017, in Ventura, California.
About Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science: Dr. Audree Fowler (pictured top left) received her B.S. in chemistry from UCLA in 1956 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1963 working with Prof. Max Dunn, when that field was almost exclusively male. She served as a NIH postdoctoral fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and in UCLA's Department of Biological Chemistry before becoming a research biological chemist in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Here on the Westwood campus Dr. Fowler forged a distinguished research career that spans the sciences and includes more than 80 publications. She also built strong connections with the Molecular Biology Institute, the UCLA Protein Microsequencing Facility (where she served as director for 15 years), the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry.
"The sciences gave me a great life", she explained. "Now I want to help others have access to the same opportunities I enjoyed." In 2008, an endowment from Dr. Fowler established the Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science for Ph.D. students in the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program, Biological Chemistry, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Brendan Amer is a 6th year Biochemistry student in Prof. Rob Clubb’s lab. He earned a B.A. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers University. At Rutgers, Amer worked with Prof. Gaetano Montelione, where he characterized influenza NS1 proteins and innate immune response ISG proteins utilizing NMR and X-ray crystallography. During his summers, Amer interned at the NIMH studying the genetic epidemiology of a variety of mental health disorders, and at Weill Cornell Medical College, studying neuronal cell-fate mapping.
At UCLA, Amer is part of the Clubb Lab where he works on bacterial macromolecular surface display. The sortase and LCP enzymes function to decorate the cell surface of pathogenic Gram-positive bacteria with a variety of complex macromolecules to facilitate critical bacterial-host, and bacterial-environment interactions. He is studying how these enzymes display complex protein-based pili, and glycopolymers on the cell surface using NMR, X-ray crystallography, biochemical, and microbiology techniques.
Jeffrey Vinokur is currently a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s Biochemistry, Molecular, and Structural Biology Program (BSMB) working in Prof. Jim Bowie's lab. Vinokur studied Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has conducted university research continuously since 2006 at Rutgers, Penn State, UW-Madison, and now UCLA.
Vinokur’s research has uncovered a novel pathway in prehistoric bacteria that grow at pH 0 and below. The novel pathway discovered in 2013 is a variant of the mevalonate pathway which produces the building blocks of isoprenoids, a class of over 25,000 biomolecules that include cholesterol, vitamin A, heme, and natural rubber. It turns out that one of the new enzymes in this pathway, mevalonate 3-kinase, could be engineered to produce biofuels. Solving the structure of mevalonate 3-kinase showed it could be mutated to make a 5-carbon biofuel called isoprenol. Such efforts are currently underway.
When he's not in the lab, Vinokur mixes his passion for science with his love of hip hop dance and performs science stunts to school children nationwide as the "Dancing Scientist".
Previous Fowler Fellows from the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry:
2016 - Henry Chan (Feigon lab), Smriti Sangwan (Eisenberg lab), Nicholas Woodall (Bowie lab)
2014 - Dan McNamara (Yeates lab)
2013 - Alex Jacobitz (Clubb lab), Alexander Patananan (S. Clarke lab), Carly Ferguson (Loo lab)
2012 - Letian Xie (C. Clarke lab), Anni Zhao (Eisenberg lab)
2011 - Timothy Anderson (Clubb lab), Soohong Kim (Weiss lab)
2010 - Zeynep Durer (Reiser lab), Cecilia Zurita-Lopez (S. Clarke lab)
2009 - Luki Goldschmidt (Eisenberg lab), Kristofer Webb (S. Clarke lab), Sheng Yin (Loo lab)
2008 - Nathan Joh (Bowie lab), Neil King (Yeates lab)