Welcoming New Faculty

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The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry welcomes Jose Rodriguez who has joined the department as an Assistant Professor in the Biochemistry Division.

Jose joined the department in July 2016 and he holds the Howard Reiss Development Chair. His office and laboratory are currently located on the 5th floor of Boyer Hall.

Jose 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. As an undergraduate, he wrote a column in the prestigious journal Nature about his experience as an immigrant student in the sciences.

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) 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, Jose 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. 

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Assistant Professor Jose Rodriguez.  Image: Electron diffraction from a protein crystal less than half a micron thick, as shown in inset.

After receiving his Ph. D. in Molecular Biology in 2012, Jose joined the laboratory of Professor David Eisenberg in the Department of Biological Chemistry at UCLA 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, Jose 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, Jose 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. 

Jose now studies the complex architecture of biological systems – from single biomolecules to cellular assemblies – at high resolution. His work is largely based on diffraction phenomena and combines computational, biochemical and biophysical experiments. The development of new methods is central to this work, particularly using emerging technologies in cryo-electron microscopy, nano and coherent x-ray diffraction, and macromolecular design. Combined, these tools can reveal undiscovered structures that broadly influence chemistry, biology, and medicine.

To learn more about Jose’s research, visit his group website.

Photo by Penny Jennings/UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry