Assistant Professor of Chemistry
The goal of my research laboratory is to understand the mechanism of ALS and develop potential drugs. Our laboratory has two related research interests: (1) that of an analytical, mass spectrometry technology development laboratory, and (2) that of a neuroscience laboratory that researches Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS.These two facets of our research are intimately related with studies of ALS driving mass spectrometry technology development and vice versa. With our mass spectrometry equipment, mammalian cell culture, mouse colony, and structure-based drug discovery collaboration with the Petsko-Ringe groups, we are developing a preclinical drug discovery platform that allows us to go from the conception of targets for molecular chaperones to testing efficacy in animals (the last step required for bringing a compound to human Clinical trials, although for effective compounds we would also collaborate with a medicinal chemistry expert to further improve the drugs).
Our ALS research is proceeding well, the major discoveries being: 1) the identification of protein modifications that occur in humans (Trp 32 oxidation of SOD1), and using this discovery to generate rescue mutants that completely reverse ALS toxicity (Trp32Phe mutants, Taylor 2007). We are now screening for compounds that can bind in the vicinity of Trp32, and hopefully will reduce toxicity in a way similar to the rescue mutants. 2) discovered the mechanism of toxicity for mutations that cause ALS, and we can explain 70% of the variability of the survival of human patients (Wang 2008). From a practical standpoint, this discovery validates the approach of targeting protein aggregation, 3) discovered a common structural problem associated with 13 ALS-associated mutations (Molnar 2009), and 4) developed molecular chaperones that can stabilize proteins by unprecedented amounts (over 40 degrees C).
It is clear to the students who have taken my class that teaching is my first priority, and this is reflected in my evaluations as well as in on-line resources (for example the “Wiki” page my student put together). Two of the courses I taught, Chem123b, and Chem 147, were both developed by me and from scratch. Two things that define me as a teacher are the following: First, I am fully engaged in teaching. For example, I’ve offered lab sections for courses where they weren’t required, I have an open door policy that students take advantage of, and I take my classes out for one meal. I do not take the student’s learning background for granted but instead learn the educational backgrounds of my students (prep. school versus inner city, and well as the extent of their formation in a given subject) and teach accordingly.
University of Georgia, Ph.D.
University of Michigan, B.S.
Awards and Honors
Alberta Gotthardt Strage '56 and Henry Strage Award for Aspiring Young Science Faculty (2010)
|CHEM||142a||Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy|
|CHEM||147b||Advanced Mass Spectrometry Laboratory|
|CHEM||240c||Physical Chemistry Seminar|
|CHEM||250c||Biophysical Chemistry Seminar|
|CHEM||260c||Materials Chemistry Seminar|