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Clay Clark
@biochemprof
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Drs. Tom Baldwin and Miriam Ziegler have been a team for over four decades. As former trainees in the Baldwin/Ziegler lab, Carole Stivers, Zak Campbell, and I felt that it was an appropriate time to reflect on over forty years of science research and education by the Baldwin/Ziegler group.

Tom and Miriam have been a team since they both became interested in bacterial luminescence while training with Woody Hastings at Harvard University, and throughout their careers they incorporated cutting-edge research technologies into their studies of bacterial luciferase. Many times Tom and Miriam recognized how the changing technologies could be used to drive their research program, and the field in general, into new areas of investigation, often times before their colleagues grasped the vision of how the new technologies could advance the field.

Their passion for research and education took them to the University of Illinois and Texas A&M University as faculty, then to the University of Arizona as department head of Biochemistry, then to UC Riverside as Dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Trainees were never left behind or forgotten, as Tom and Miriam continue to provide advice and mentoring even as some of the earlier students reach their time of retirement. They have spent countless hours over the years serving science societies and providing their expertise to help shape national debates on science policy and education.

Baldwin wordle

So, we felt that it was time to bring the group together and celebrate the long careers of Tom and Miriam by holding a symposium to highlight research of former students, Tom’s faculty hires, collaborators and colleagues as a way to emphasize the influence of their training and friendship. Former students and faculty from each institution where Tom and Miriam have worked represented several generations of trainee groups. We were each finally able to meet former students whose dissertations we’d read, to reconnect with students who were in the lab when we were in the lab but with whom we had lost touch over the years, and to hear the stories of the other generations of trainees, both older and younger.

It was striking to see where the former students found their own positions around the US – Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, Maryland, North Dakota, Illinois, Texas, California, Arizona, Virginia, and others – in research I universities, smaller academic institutions, large pharmaceutical companies, biotech start-ups, IT fields, computer programming, and patent law. The group is an excellent example of the variety of careers open to well-trained scientists.

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The traveling biochemist: Enzymes, pathways, proteases, and homeostasis

@biochemprof

Clay Clark – @biochemprofI'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

As I’ve written before in this blog, one of the advantages of working in an academic institution is the opportunity of international travel. Science is a world-wide endeavor, and one should take opportunities to visit international colleagues whenever possible. I was invited recently to two international conferences to give seminars on caspases and allostery. The first conference was in Playa Del Carmen – Xcaret, Mexico (Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways), and the second conference was in Navi Mumbai, India, at ACTREC (Advanced Center for Treatment, Research, and Education in Cancer), part of the TATA Memorial Cancer Center in India.

The enzymes conference in Xcaret was organized by Beatrice Golinelli-Pimpaneau and Elizabeth Komives and focused on enzyme function and regulation, coenzymes, metabolism, and methods for examining enzyme structure and function. There were many good talks on protein conformational changes, protein dynamics, kinases, and morpheeins. (If you are not sure what a morpheein is or how it relates to enzyme allostery, then see the review below by Eileen Jaffee (1)). The schedule of speakers is provided here. The five-day conference was held in the beautiful Occidental Grand Xcaret resort, an all-inclusive environment with great food, drinks, pools, and a private bay for swimming and snorkeling (a couple of pictures are below along with a video of flamingos out for a walk). The weather was ~85 ºF all week, compared to mid-50s in Raleigh, so it was good to be in the Caribbean for a few days. Overall, the environment was terrific, and the seminars were outstanding.

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Playa Del Carmen – Xcaret

Macaws

Macaw at Xcaret Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

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4th workshop on the applications of neutrons scattering in structural biology

Dr. Flora Meilleur

Dr. Flora MeilleurI'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

Dr. Flora Meilleur chaired the 4th workshop on the applications of neutrons scattering in structural biology (BCH590E) hosted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) during June 24-28, 2013. Since the inaugural event in 2010, the workshop has increased in popularity and broadened to include graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and university faculty with diverse backgrounds and interests in structural biology. The workshop is structured to introduce the participants to neutron scattering techniques, instrumentation and data collection, analysis and interpretation and to expose them to cutting-edge research in neutron structural biology. Over 60 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and university faculty – from 34 premier universities and research institutions across the United States, with no prior neutron scattering experience have now participated.

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The traveling biochemist: Science in the far east

Clay Clark

Clay Clark – @biochemprof I'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

When I’m lucky enough to be invited to a conference outside the United States, I jump at the chance to visit faculty and students at other institutes. Recently, I was invited by the Biochemical Journal to attend the yearly editorial meeting in Beijing, China. I’ve been a member of the editorial board for several years, and the editors usually meet in London each spring to discuss issues pertaining to the journal. Two years ago BJ opened an office in Beijing in anticipation of the tremendous growth in scientific research occurring in Asian countries. In order to highlight research of the editorial board members, BJ held a one-day research symposium (Cellular Processes: the Life and Death Decisions of a Cell) at Tsinghua University prior to the board meeting. The talks focused on new imaging techniques, nanotubes and intercellular communications, membrane dynamics and tumor suppression, and molecular switches between apoptosis, autophagy, and programmed necrosis.

I traveled to Beijing several days before the meeting in order to visit tourist sites around Beijing as well as to visit Dr. Yigong Shi and his students at Tsinghua University. I’ve crossed paths with Yigong on several occasions since we are both interested in cell death mechanisms and we both served on NIH study section, so he invited me to give a seminar on my research. The room was packed with faculty and students who were quite engaging. Yigong then treated me to a lunch of Peking Duck and other delicious dishes before he returned to his duties as a delegate to the National People’s Congress, which was in session at the time.

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Matrone lecture by Dr. Robert Lefkowitz

Robert Lefkowitz

 

Dr. Robert Lefkowitz presented the 2013 Matrone Lecture in Biochemistry at NC State University on April 18.

The Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, Biochem Blogs and NC State University present the Matrone Lecture by Dr. Robert Lefkowitz: click here to watch the 2013 Matrone Lecture.

 

 

The department held a reception prior to the presentation, and a slideshow of the reception is shown below.

 

National Science Foundation IGERT training program sends young scientists to learn neutron scattering at ORNL

Flora Meilleur

Flora Meilleur, Course Organizer

Graduate student Annette Bodenheimer and Dr. Meilleur participated in an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) workshop in neutron scattering conducted at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Spallation Neutron Source, February 25 through March 1. The workshop educated graduate students in the benefits of neutron scattering in (1) biological macromolecules and biomaterials, (2) the structure and dynamics of strongly correlated electronic materials, and (3) the design of artificial nanoscale materials.

IGERT is the NSF’s flagship interdisciplinary training program for PhD scientists and engineers from the United States. Since 1998, the program has made 215 awards to more than 100 universities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and has provided funding for nearly 5,000 graduate students. Dr. Meilleur is a co-PI on an IGERT project led by Professor Haskell Taub, a Professor of Physics at the University of Missouri, Columbia, entitled “Neutron Scattering for the Science and Engineering of the 21st Century.”

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Retreating to Ocean Isle

Joe Maciag

Joe Maciag
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When you think of Italy you may conjure up images of fine wines, food hearty enough to suppress the most insatiable appetite or natural beauty only a poet could describe, but I think of a birthplace. The birthplace of an annual learning and bonding experience dubbed the Clark Lab Retreat. I know the name lacks the flavor of Italy, but we are scientists after all. It all started on what I can assume was a warm night on a Tuscan hillside. Drs. Clay Clark and Sarah MacKenzie were attending the Gordon Conference on Cell Death in Barga, Italy. (You can read the blog here.) During a conversation between the two, the Clark Lab Retreat was born.

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Free energy in the woods

Clay Clark

Clay Clark – @biochemprof I'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

The Gibbs Conference on Biothermodynamics recently held its 26th annual meeting in Carbondale, IL. The Gibbs conference began in 1986 with a meeting to discuss the discipline of thermodynamics in biological systems. How does one apply the rigorous techniques utilized in thermodynamic studies to biological systems? How does one move away from the “garbage can thermodynamics,” as described by Gary Ackers, to learn fundamental processes in biology?

As described by Ackers and Bolen (1)

A widespread view of thermodynamics was that:

(1) Thermodynamic approaches were archaic, and, at best, ancillary to the central problems of biochemistry, as reinforced by the commonly-heard slogan ‘thermodynamics can tell us nothing about mechanisms.’

(2) The subject was usually taught poorly or not at all in departments of chemistry and biochemistry.

(3) A long-standing tradition of equating thermodynamics with only a single technique (i.e., calorimetry) had contributed to the narrow and insular perception of the field and its potential.

(4) Thermodynamics had seldom been fused with modem developments of structural analysis and computational chemistry.

The goal was to move away from simply measuring changes in Gibbs free energy to fill in tables found in textbooks and to learn how one can use the techniques to describe cellular reactions – enzymology, protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions, nucleic acid-ligand interactions, biological membranes, to name a few. In doing so, the conference has been spectacularly successful in advancing the field of biothermodynamics.

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The traveling biochemist: Cell death in Barga, Italy

Sarah MacKenzie

Sarah MacKenzie

A few weeks ago I attended my first Gordon Conference on Cell Death in Barga, Italy with my PI, Clay Clark. The conference was located in a beautiful resort nestled in the Tuscan hills off the beaten path between Florence and Pisa. It was a spectacular venue for 170 cell death aficionados to present their most current data and discuss new topics in an informal setting. We arrived in Rome the morning that the conference began, rented a car (we were in line behind Morgan Spurlock) and traversed Italy dodging Italian drivers who have no regard for lanes or speed limits. It is actually a pretty fun experience to drive in Italia! The conference began that evening with two excellent keynote addresses presented by Martin Raff and Richard Youle.

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Third school on the applications of neutron scattering in structural biology

Flora Meilleur

Flora Meilleur, Course Organizer

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosted the third school on the applications of Neutron Scattering in Structural Biology (BCH590E) during June 4-8, 2012. This one-week intensive course is co-organized annually by the Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry at North Carolina State University and the Neutron Sciences Directorate at ORNL. It aims at training future structural biologists on neutron scattering techniques. While the past editions had been opened to graduate students only, this year’s attendees also included post-doctoral research associates and faculty professors.

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