Mar 23, 2016
Dr. Michael Thompson
Alumnus Michael Thompson (PhD ’14, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Yeates Group) has been awarded a 2016 Protein Science Best Paper award.
 
The Best Paper awards are given annually to the first authors of the top two papers published during the preceding year in the Protein Society’s prestigious academic journal Protein Science. Usually the winners are the authors who contributed the most work to a given experiment.
 
Dr. Thompson was a graduate student in Prof. Todd Yeates' group. He is currently a postdoc in Prof. Jamie Fraser’s group at UC San Francisco. The winning paper is titled “An allosteric model for control of pore opening by substrate binding in the EutL microcompartment shell protein”. Protein Sci 24:956-975 2015. The co-authors Dr. Duilio Casio (Manager of the UCLA-DOE Institute X-ray Crystallography, Crystallization Condition Screening and Computer Core), David Leibly (graduate student, Yeates group) and Prof. Todd Yeates. 
 
“Mike was a terrific graduate student,” said Prof. Yeates. “In terms of technical interests, Mike stands out among other students in the degree to which he insisted on getting at the heart of many of the crystallography problems he faced while working on the structures of bacterial microcompartment shell proteins in my lab. They tend to form flat sheets (which is their function), and crystals often showed lattice translocations or other kinds of disorders.  Mike worked through such cases rather than abandoning them, and as a result became one of the most deeply knowledgeable students in crystallography that I have had. As a senior student, Mike was an intellectual leader in my lab and really for other structure labs at UCLA as well. He’s an academic at heart, with very high scientific standards.  It’s nice to see him recognized.”
 
Dr. Thompson will be acknowledged at the 30th Anniversary Symposium of The Protein Society (July 16-19, 2016, Baltimore, MD) where he will be invited to give a talk.
 
Excerpts from The Protein Society website (by Brian W. Matthews, Editor):
 
2016 Best Paper Awards
 
Protein Science Best Paper awards to Tracy Clinton and Michael Thompson
 
Warmest congratulations to Tracy Clinton and Michael Thompson, the recipients of the Protein Society’s Year 2016 “Best Paper” awards.
 
At the beginning of each year, two “best papers” are selected from articles published in Protein Science during the preceding 12 months.  A junior author (typically the first author) is designated as the award winner and invited to give a talk at the following Annual Protein Society Symposium.
 
Further in article:
 
Michael Thompson grew up in the San Fernando Valley area, outside of Los Angeles, and was an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley (degree 2007), in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. While at Berkeley, he worked as a research assistant in Tom Alber's lab, where he developed interests in protein crystallography and in understanding how conformational changes control the functions of proteins. He then attended graduate school at UCLA (degree 2014), under the mentorship of Todd Yeates.
 
Todd says "Mike was a terrific graduate student (now a postdoc with Jamie Fraser at UCSF)."
 
In terms of technical interests, Mike stands out among other students in the degree to which he insisted on getting at the heart of many of the crystallography problems he faced while working on the structures of bacterial microcompartment shell proteins in my lab. They tend to form flat sheets (which is their function), and crystals often showed lattice translocations or other kinds of disorders. Mike worked through such cases rather than abandoning them, and as a result became one of the most deeply knowledgeable students in crystallography that I have had.
 
On the biology side, Mike was determined to dissect the mechanisms of molecular transport through a dynamic shell protein, and this turned out to be a tough problem. He got partial answers early on, but the story was incomplete (and faced unfavorable publishing decisions) until he finally figured out the allostery component: the interior substrate holds the large pore in the closed conformation so that the toxic aldehyde intermediate doesn't escape into the cytosol while the microcompartment is actively metabolizing. It took a lot of perseverance to get to the finish line.
 
Mike is dedicated to mechanism at the fine scale. He came out of Tom Alber's lab as an undergraduate where he had some exposure to the early work on dissecting alternate conformations in proteins. He continued his technical and mechanistic interests in my group, and now with Jamie Fraser where he continues along that path.
 
As a senior student, Mike was an intellectual leader in my lab and really for other structure labs at UCLA as well. He's an academic at heart, with very high scientific standards. It's nice to see him recognized."
 
Read full the Protein Society article here.