Pioneering new methods in molecular imaging

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The work of Professor Jose Rodriguez was recently highlighted by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Rodriguez and his research were featured on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) website and newsletter.

He is a pioneer of a new molecular imaging technique called MicroED – short for “micro-electron diffraction.” The method uses beams of electrons, rather than more damaging X-rays, to reveal the precise locations of atoms within exceptionally small crystals.  According to the article, “scientists are now using MicroED to peer more deeply into disease-causing molecules than they ever could before. A team at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus is working with Rodriguez to develop and refine the low-cost approach, which promises to make molecular mapping more accessible to research groups worldwide.”

In the article Rodriguez is quoted “I believe anyone can do fantastic science, wherever they come from,” he says. “It’s my duty to help them achieve that.”

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Rodriguez migrated from Mexico to Los Angeles at a young age, where he attended public school, then undergraduate studies at UCLA. He received his B.S. in BioPhysics in 2007. During his senior year as an undergraduate he was awarded the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship for Graduate Studies (one of five in the nation). After receiving his Ph. D. in Molecular Biology in 2012 from UCLA, Rodriguez joined the laboratory of Professor David Eisenberg in the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. There he embarked on the MicroED (Electron Diffraction of Microscopic Crystals) project, 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 solved several new protein structures.

Rodriguez joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as assistant professor in 2016 and holds the Howard Reiss Development Chair. In April 2017 he was named a 2017 Searle Scholar and in May 2017 he was selected as a Beckman Young Investigator by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.    

To learn more about his research, visit the Rodriguez group website.

Photos by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.