Professor Jose Rodriquez selected for the Packard Fellowship

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The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has selected Professor Jose Rodriquez as one of 22 recipients for the 2019 Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering.  

In being selected as one of the nation’s most innovative early-career scientists and engineers, each Fellow will receive $875,000 over five years to pursue their research.

A true Bruin, Rodriguez received his B.S. in biophysics and his Ph.D. in molecular biology at UCLA. Prior to joining the UCLA faculty in 2016, he was a postdoctoral scholar in the group of Professor David Eisenberg. Rodriguez holds the Howard Reiss Development Chair in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. To learn more about the Rodriguez group’s research, visit their website.

Rodriguez joins past departmental awardees Professors Ric Kaner (1989 Fellow), Yi Tang (2007 Fellow), and Hosea Nelson (2017) who have also received this honor.  

From UCLA Newsroom – by Stuart Wolpert

UCLA chemistry professor Jose Rodriguez honored as 2019 Packard fellow

Jose Rodriguez, UCLA assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was today named among 22 outstanding young scientists in the U.S. to be awarded Packard fellowships for Science and Engineering by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Packard fellowships enable the nation’s most promising young professors to pursue science and engineering research early in their careers with few funding restrictions, providing them with the freedom to take risks and explore new scientific frontiers.

Rodriguez 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.

His laboratory is working to explore the structures adopted by prions — a form of infectious protein that causes neurodegenerative disorders. Prion proteins, like the amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, form large clumps that damage and ultimately kill neurons in the brain. It is not known what causes prions to switch from their harmless, normal form to the infectious, aggregate-forming structure. As a postdoctoral fellow, Rodriguez pioneered methods for the collection of structural data from miniscule protein “nanocrystals” — techniques his laboratory uses to determine detailed atomic structures of proteins.

Combining this technique with methods in physical chemistry and molecular and computational biology, his research team analyzes the range of structures that prion proteins adopt within single assemblies. The findings could reveal the structural changes that transform prions into their toxic, infectious form, and could lead to strategies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders associated with the formation of amyloid aggregates.

“I can’t wait to see what direction the work of these brilliant scientists and engineers will take,” said Frances Arnold, Chair of the Packard Fellowships advisory panel, 2018 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and 1989 Packard Fellow. “Their efforts will add to this beautiful web of science that connects us all to a better understanding of the world around us.”

Among his awards and honors, Rodriguez was selected as a 2018 Pew scholar in the biomedical sciences, a 2017 Searle Scholar and a 2017 Beckman Young Investigator by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

A Packard Foundation advisory panel of distinguished scientists and engineers carefully selected the 18 fellows.

UCLA professors who previously have been awarded Packard fellowships include Andrea Ghez Alice Shapley and Steven Furlanetto, professors of astronomy and physics; Douglas Black, professor of molecular genetics; Dino Di Carlo, professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science; Weizhe Hong, an assistant professor of biological chemistry and neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Elaine Hsiao, UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology; Richard Kaner, who holds UCLA’s Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Materials Innovation; Carolina Lithgow-Bertelloni, professor of geosciences in the department of Earth, planetary, and space sciences; Hosea Nelson, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Yi Tang, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry and biochemistry; and mathematics professor Terence Tao, who holds the James and Carol Collins Chair in the UCLA College.

Read a Howard Hughes Medical Institute article from 2017 about Rodriguez’s research.