2022-2023 Audree V. Fowler Fellows in Protein Science

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Fowler Fellows 2022

Graduate students Cody Gillman (Gonen lab), Declan Evans (Houk lab), Troy Lowe (Backus lab), Ashley Julio (Backus lab), and Alex Stevens (Hong Zhou lab) have been selected as 2022-2023 Fowler Fellows. (Pictured above with Dr. Audree Fowler.)

Each Fellow presented a talk at the Audree V. Fowler Fellowships in Protein Science Special Seminar on Tuesday, October 7, 2022.

Dr. Audree Fowler

A strong supporter of the basic sciences and medicine at UCLA, alumna Dr. Audree Fowler (B.S. ’56 chemistry, Ph.D. ’63 biochemistry) established the Audree V. Fowler Fellows in Protein Science in 2008. Fowler was Director UCLA Protein Microsequencing Facility from 1984-1999 and is a Researcher Emeritus of the UCLA Department of Biological Chemistry. She is one of the first four women to receive a Ph.D. from the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. In 2018, the women were awarded the department’s 2018 Alumni Legacy Awards in recognition of their achievements in life, and generous support and service to UCLA. “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 Fowler Fellowships endowment.

Applications for the fellowships are solicited from graduate students in the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental (MBI) Ph.D. Program, Biological Chemistry, and Chemistry & Biochemistry Departments. In addition to presenting their research at a special seminar, the recipients each receive a $5,000 award. 

About the 2022-23 Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science

Declan Evans is a sixth year, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology (BMSB) graduate student in Professor Ken Houk’s group.

Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Declan attended Penn State University where he studied Biochemistry and Math. Starting in 2014, he worked as an undergraduate researcher with Professor Scott Showalter to biophysically characterize proteins involved in the miRNA maturation pathway. He graduated from Penn State in 2017 and began his graduate studies at UCLA where he is currently. His research at UCLA in the Houk group involves the computational investigation of enzymes and catalysts to model the factors that control their activity. Declan is an avid runner in his free time and recently completed his first half-distance Ironman triathlon.

Ashley Julio is a fourth year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) student in Professor Keriann Backus’ lab.

Ashley received her B.S. in Biology-Chemistry at Point Loma Nazarene University, where she developed strategies to utilize the procapsid of bacteriophage lambda as a drug delivery vehicle in the lab of Professor Kristopher Koudelka.

At UCLA, Ashley’s research employs chemical proteomics strategies to uncover the functional impact of labeling RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) with cysteine-reactive chemical probes. RNA-binding proteins are crucial for various biological processes and are implicated in several diseases, particularly neurodegenerative disorders, but have not historically been a major focus for small molecule drug development efforts. Although previous chemoproteomic studies have revealed that RBPs are amenable to labeling by cysteine-reactive covalent probes, these studies have not defined the functional consequences of said labeling events. Ashley’s research has shown that covalent modification of RBPs with these probes can dramatically alter that RNA-RBP interactome, both by blocking RNA-RBP interactions and by initiating degradation of RBPs. Ultimately, these findings should aid in the prioritization of sites within RBPs for drug development, as well as expand our understanding of the functions of individual RBPs.

Alex Stevens is a fourth year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) graduate student in Professor Hong Zhou’s group.

Alex received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Arizona State University, where he researched G protein-coupled receptor structures in the lab of Dr. Wei Liu. Alex’s graduate work leverages the recent advancements in cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) to resolve high-resolution structures of the proteins that drive assembly and replication in double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses. Because dsRNA is alien to eukaryotes and thus a useful inducer of the antiviral response, these viruses have evolved to transcribe nucleotides at transcriptional enzymatic complexes (TECs) within their proteinaceous capsids which simultaneously undergo large architectural changes. Alex investigates this dynamic within complex dsRNA viruses, like the economically important aquareovirus, to determine how their TECs and capsids change throughout their lifecycle. He has also characterized a minimally complex dsRNA virus which he plans to use as a model to probe the rules of intracellular replication amongst these ubiquitous pathogens.

Cody Gillman is a fourth year Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology (BBSB) graduate student in Professor Tamir Gonen’s group.

Prior to UCLA, Cody was a research technician at Caltech in the lab of Dr. Bil Clemons where he studied the structure of membrane protein complexes involved in the N-linked glycosylation pathway.

Cody’s graduate research focuses on structurally characterizing how toxin molecules are able to modify the function of membrane proteins. Despite nearly half a decade of research, very little is known about the mechanism of action of the toxin molecule palytoxin (PTX). When cells are exposed to PTX, they become irreversibly depolarized because PTX targets the ion pump Na,K-ATPase and converts it into a passive cation pore. Cody determined a MicroED crystal structure of PTX bound to a short chain variable fragment (scFv) and molecular docking simulations suggest PTX adopts the same fold when bound to Na,K-ATPase. These findings will contribute to the development of molecular agents that can treat cases of PTX exposure.

Troy Lowe is a sixth year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) graduate student in Professor Steven Clarke’s Lab.

Troy received his B.S and M.S degrees from San Francisco State University, initially working to differentiate the binding of nitric oxide to non-glycated hemoglobin (HbAo) and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). Troy then proceeded to biophysically characterize how C. elegans H2A histone variant, HTAS-1, is incorporated into the nucleosome core particle in Dr. Raymond Esquerra’s Lab.

Troy’s current research uncovered that protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) can be active at conditions below physiological body temperature, ionic strength, and pH. Utilizing his current in vitro findings, Troy is investigating how these conditions alter PRMT activity in vivo and why PRMTs are overexpressed in cancer. Additionally, Troy is interested in understanding how posttranslational crosstalk between arginine methylation and serine phosphorylation can regulate biological processes.

Previous Fowler Fellows from the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

2021-22 – Weixian Deng (Wohlschlegel/Plath labs), Yi Xiao “Sean” Jiang (Eisenberg lab), Maria Flores (Rodriguez lab), Carter Lantz (Loo lab), and Logan Richards (Rodriguez lab).
2020-21 – Janine Fu (Loo lab), Calina Glynn (Rodriguez lab), and Jiahui Lu (Eisenberg lab)
2019-20 – David Boyer (Eisenberg lab), Orlando Martinez (Clubb lab) and John Muroski (Loo lab)
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 and biographies courtesy of the Molecular Biology Institute.