Rodriguez, Jose A.


Rodriguez Jose


A true Bruin, Professor Jose Rodriguez received his B.S. in BioPhysics and his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at UCLA. He came to the U.S. from Mexico at a young age, went to public school in Los Angeles, and then to UCLA, where he received his B.S. in BioPhysics in 2007. During his senior year as an undergraduate Rodriguez was awarded the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship for Graduate Studies (one of five in the nation) and decided to join the UCLA Molecular Biology Inderdepartmental Ph.D. program (MBIGP) because it allowed him to pursue interdisciplinary research. During his graduate studies he conducted cancer research with Prof. Manuel Penichet in the David Geffen School of Medicine. In his spare time, Rodriguez worked on the development of imaging technologies and computational methods for biological systems in the lab of Prof. Jianwei (John) Miao. Jose was the first MBIGP Whitcome Fellow.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 2012, Rodriguez joined the laboratory of Professor David Eisenberg in the UCLA Department of Biological Chemistry as an A.P. Giannini postdoctoral research fellow. There he embarked on a new but challenging project – MicroED (Electron Diffraction of Microscopic Crystals), which allows the 3D structure determination of protein molecules using extremely small crystals. This project required specialized electron microscopes, one of which is located at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of the Janelia Research Campus. Over a three year period, Rodriguez traveled to Janelia several times and had solved several unknown protein structures. The first one, the protein α-synuclein at 1.4 Å, was published in Nature as an article of which he was the first author.

In the spring of 2014, Rodriguez was an instructor for the newly revamped undergraduate laboratory course in biophysics at UCLA. In the new course, students build a coherent diffractive imaging set-up using an optical laser, a charge-coupled device and other components, then use this set-up to image biological specimens in two and three dimensions. 

Rodriguez joined the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as assistant professor in 2016 and holds the Howard Reiss Development Chair. His research group develops and applies new scientific methods in bio-imaging to solve cellular and molecular structures and reveal undiscovered structures that influence chemistry, biology and medicine. He conducts research on the complex architecture of biological systems – from single biomolecules to cellular assemblies – at high resolution. His research combines computational, biochemical and biophysical experiments. 

Rodriguez is part of the team who have made profound discoveries through their use of electron microscopy, a field undergoing a revolution so significant that it was recognized through the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. 

In 2020, Rodriguez spoke about his research and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the sciences in a Physical Sciences video, and he was recognized in Cell Press’ list of 100 inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists in America. He was also interviewed by science journalist Robyn Williams about his infectious rope-like prion proteins research.

Rodriguez’s many awards and honors include 2020 Sloan Fellow, 2019 Packard Fellow, 2019 UCLA Chem & Biochemistry McCoy Award, 2018 American Chemical Society Talented 12, 2018 Pew Scholar, 2017 Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator, and 2017 Searle Scholar.

Research Interests

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Honors & Awards

  • Sloan Fellow
  • Packard Foundation Fellow
  • UCLA Chem & Biochem McCoy Award
  • American Chemical Society Talented 12
  • Pew Scholar
  • Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator
  • Searle Scholar
  • Parvin Foundation Award for Post-Doctoral Research
  • A.P. Giannini Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship
  • UCLA AMGEN Molecular Biology Institute Dissertation Year Award
  • UCLA Whitcome Fellowship for Graduate Study in Molecular Biology
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship

Representative Publications

Complete List of Published Work:

Selected Publications:

  • Glynn, C., Sawaya, M.R., Ge P., Gallagher-Jones, M., Short, C.W., Bowman, R., Apostol, M., Zhou, Z.H., Eisenberg, D.S., Rodriguez, J.A. (2020)
  • Cryo-EM structure of a human prion fibril with a hydrophobic, protease-resistant core. Nat. Structural and Molecular Biology. doi: 10.1038/s41594-020-0403-y. 2.
  • Gallagher-Jones, M., Bustillo, K.C., Ophus, C., Richards, L.S., Ciston, J., Lee, S., Minor, A.M., Rodriguez, J.A. (2020) Atomic structures determined from digitally defined nanocrystalline regions. IUCrJ 7(3). 3.
  • Jones, C.G., Asay, M., Kim, L.J., Kleinsasser, J.F., Saha, A., Fulton, T.J., Berkley, K.R., Cascio, D., Malyutin, A.G., Conley, M.P., Stoltz, B.M., Lavallo, V., Rodriguez, J.A., Nelson, H.M. (2019) Characterization of Reactive Organometallic Species via MicroED. ACS Central Sci. DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.9b00403
  • Zee C., Glynn C., Gallagher-Jones M., Miao J., Santiago CG., Cascio D., Gonen T., Sawaya MR. and Rodriguez, J.A. (2019) Homochiral and racemic MicroED structures of a peptide from the ice nucleation protein InaZ. IUCrJ 6(2).
  • Gallagher-Jones M., Ophus C., Bustillo KC., Boyer DR., Panova O., Glynn C., Zee C., Ciston J., Mancia KC., Minor AM., and Rodriguez, J.A. (2019) Nanoscale mosaicity revealed in peptide microcrystals by scanning electron nanodiffraction. Nat. Comms. Biol. 2, 26.
  • Jones, C.G., Martynowycz, M.W., Hattne, J., Fulton, T.J., Stoltz, B.M., Rodriguez, J.A., Nelson, H. and Gonen, T. (2018) The CryoEM Method MicroED as a Powerful Tool for Small Molecule Structure Determination. ACS Central Sci. 4 (11), 1587–1592.
  • Hughes, M.P., Sawaya, M.R., Boyer, D.R., Goldschmidt, L., Rodriguez, J.A., Cascio, D., Chong, L., Gonen, T., Eisenberg, D.S. (2018) Atomic structures of low-complexity protein segments reveal kinked β sheets that assemble networks. Science. 359(6376), 698-701.
  • Gallagher-Jones, M., Glynn, C., Boyer, D.R., Martynowycz, M.W., Hernandez, E., Miao, J., Zee, C., Novikova, I.V., Goldschmidt, L., McFarlane, H.T., Helguera, G.F., Evans, J.E., Sawaya, M.R., Cascio, D., Eisenberg, D.S., Gonen, T. and Rodriguez, J.A. (2018) Sub-ångström cryo-EM structure of a prion protofibril reveals a polar clasp. Nat. Structural and Molecular Biology. 25, 131-134.
  • Rodriguez, J.A., Magdalena, I., Sawaya, M.R., Cascio, D., Reyes, F., Shi, D., Guenther, E., Johnson, L., Hattne, J., Sangwan, S., Nannega, B., Brewster, A.S., Messerschmidt, M., Boutet, S., Sauter, N.K., Gonen, T., and Eisenberg, D. (2015) Structure of the toxic core of alpha-synuclein from invisible crystals. Nature. 525(7570):486-90. *News & Views by M. Goedert & Y. Cheng Nature 10.1038/nature15630.
  • Rodriguez, J.A., Xu, R., Chen, C.C., Huang, Z., Jiang, H., Chen, A.L., Raines, K.S., Pryor, A.J., Nam, D., Wiegart, L., Song, C., Madsen, A., Chushkin, Y., Zontone, F., Bradley, P.J., and Miao, J. (2015) Three-dimensional coherent X-ray diffractive imaging of whole, frozen-hydrated cells. IUCrJ. 2, 575-583.
  • Rodriguez, J.A., Xu, R., Chen, C.C., Zou, Y., and Miao, J. (2013) Oversampling smoothness: an effective algorithm for phase retrieval of noisy diffraction intensities. J. Appl. Cryst. 46, 312-318. 12. Rodríguez, J.A., Lopez, M., Thayer, M., Zhao, Y., Oberholzer, M., Chang, D., Penichet, M.L., Helguera, G., Bruinsma, R., Hill, K.L., and Miao, J. (2009) Propulsion of African trypanosomes is driven by bihelical waves with alternating chirality separated by kinks. PNAS. 106, 19322-19327.
  • Glynn, C. and Rodriguez, J.A. (2019) Data-driven challenges and opportunities in crystallography. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences. 3(4), 423-432.
  • Rodriguez, J.A., Eisenberg, D.S., Gonen, T. (2017) Taking the Measure of MicroED. COSB. 46:79-86.
  • Rodriguez, J.A., Lin, J., Eisenberg, D.S. (2017) Toward the Atomic Structure of PrPsc. Prion Biology, Cold Spring Harbor Press. 16. Rodriguez, J.A., Gonen, T. (2016) High-Resolution Macromolecular Structure Determination by MicroED, a cryo-EM Method. Methods in Enzymology, vol. 579, ch. 14.


  • Penichet M.L., Schultes B.C., Nicodemus C.F., Daniels T.R., Helguera G., and Rodriguez, J.A. IgE antibodies for the treatment of cancer. PCT/US2009/040085; USSN: 12/900,256. U.S. Patent No. 8,697,079. Issued on April 15, 2014.