Faculty Spotlight: Jose Rodriguez

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Congratulations to Professor Jose Rodriguez on his promotion to associate professor with tenure, effective July 1, 2021.

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. 
Jargroup Zoom
A recent Zoom screenshot of the Rodriguez group members.
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.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.