2019-20 Fowler Fellows

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BMSB graduate students David Boyer, Orlando Martinez, and John Muroski have been selected as 2019-20 Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science.

In 2008, an endowment from UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry alumna Dr. Audree Fowler (BS ’56, Ph.D. ’63) established the Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science. Applications are solicited from graduate students in the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental (MBI) Ph.D. Program, Biological Chemistry, and Chemistry & Biochemistry Departments. Three recipients are presented with awards of $5,000 each and present their research at the Annual MBI Retreat. “The sciences gave me a great life. Now I want to help others have access to the same opportunities I enjoyed,” Fowler explained when she established the endowment.

Fowler Fellows

About the 2019-20 Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science

David BoyerDavid Boyer is a fifth-year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) student in Professor David Eisenberg’s group.  As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, David worked on a variety of biochemistry and bioengineering projects with a focus on biofuels before coming to UCLA in the Fall of 2015.

David’s research focuses on elucidating the atomic structures of amyloid fibrils. The formation of amyloid fibrils is associated with numerous aging-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and with normal cellular processes such as gene regulation. Although the existence of amyloid fibrils has been known for decades, their atomic structures lagged behind the determination of globular protein structures for many years. David has leveraged recent breakthroughs in cryo-electron microscopy to uncover the structures of fibrils formed by the proteins TDP-43 and alpha-synuclein for the first time. In particular, David’s research has helped to understand how hereditary disease mutations in these proteins lead to more pathogenic fibrils.

Orlando Martinez is a fourth-year Biochemistry, Molecular, and Structural Biology (BMSB) student in Professor Robert Clubb’s group. Prior to UCLA, Orlando studied the enzymatic biosynthesis of higher alcohol biofuels in cyanobacteria with Dr. Matthew Posewitz at the Colorado School of Mines. Outside of lab, Orlando enjoys spending time camping, skiing, and hiking.

Orlando’s graduate research focuses on deconvoluting bacterial defense mechanisms by studying the structure and enzymatic mechanism of a wall teichoic acid glycosyltransferase, TagA. Targeted elimination of TagA abrogates wall teichoic acid display and severely decreases bacterial virulence as well as β-lactam antibiotic resistance. Orlando utilizes biochemical approaches along with X-ray crystallography to investigate unique structural properties of TagA. He is also using NMR spectroscopy to understand the molecular basis of TagA substrate binding and membrane association by amphipathic C-terminal helices. Orlando aims to apply this knowledge to develop a TagA inhibitor for use as a next-generation antibiotic.

John Muroski is a fifth-year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) student in Professor Joseph Loo’s group. As an undergraduate, John studied biochemistry and received his B.S. degree from the University of Rochester in 2015, where he worked on ribosomal maturation with Professor Gloria Culver.

During his Ph.D. research, John has worked on understanding the effect of posttranslational modifications on bacterial systems, with a primary focus on environmentally impactful metabolic systems. Our syntrophic bacteria prove to be of particular interest given the high abundance and unique nature of several metabolites that result in protein modification. John’s research has shown that metabolic flux can result in differential modification profiles of the proteome. Currently, his focus is on understanding the physiological effects on the proteome and how the bacterial systems regulates such modifications from impeding necessary functions.

About Dr. Audree Fowler

Dr. Audree Fowler 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. Fowler is one of the first four women to receive Ph.D.s from the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. The group was awarded the Inaugural UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Alumni Legacy Award in 2018. Learn more here.

Previous Fowler Fellows from the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

2018-19 – Scott McConnell (Clubb lab), Kevin Murray (Eisenberg lab), Rebeccah Warmack (S. Clarke lab)
2017-18 – Michael Hughes (Eisenberg lab), Yuxi Liu (Yeates lab), Kanishk Jain (S. Clarke lab)
2016-17 – Brendan Amer (Clubb Lab) and Jeff Vinokur (Bowie Lab)
2015-16 – Henry Chan (Feigon lab), Smriti Sangwan (Eisenberg lab), Nicholas Woodall (Bowie lab)
2014-15 – Dan McNamara (Yeates lab)
2013-14 – Alex Jacobitz (Clubb lab), Alexander Patananan (S. Clarke lab), Carly Ferguson (Loo lab)
2012-13 – Letian Xie (C. Clarke lab), Anni Zhao (Eisenberg lab)
2011-12 – Timothy Anderson (Clubb lab), Soohong Kim (Weiss lab)
2010-11 – Zeynep Durer (Reiser lab), Cecilia Zurita-Lopez (S. Clarke lab)
2009-10 – Luki Goldschmidt (Eisenberg lab), Kristofer Webb (S. Clarke lab), Sheng Yin (Loo lab)
2008-09 – Nathan Joh (Bowie lab), Neil King (Yeates lab)

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu. Photos courtesy of the Molecular Biology Institute.