Kuriyan to take over as Dean; Johnson wins Pew scholarship

Kuriyan to become dean of Vanderbilt medical school

John Kuriyandistinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of California at Berkeley and researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has been named the next dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Basic Sciences.

John Kuriyan

Kuriyan succeeds Laurent Marnettalso a member of the ASBMB, who was named founding dean of the school of basic sciences in 2016 after the university separated from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

After Kuriyan takes office on Jan. 1, Marnett plans to take a sabbatical and then return to faculty. “I am delighted with John’s leadership,” Marnett said in a press release. “He will be a beacon to attract top biomedical scientists to campus.”

Kuriyan’s research focuses on conformational changes and post-translational modifications that activate the activity of signaling molecules involved in signal transduction. His lab has studied autophosphorylation, subunit exchange, redox modifications, and dimerization of proteins, including tyrosine kinases, such as Src and Btk, calcium-activated kinase CaMKII, and various proteins involved in signaling. downstream of receptor tyrosine kinases, in particular the Ras SOS activator. They have previously studied the structures of proteins involved in DNA replication, including polymerase sliding clamp complexes. The lab has a whimsical tradition of illustrating their articles with art in the style of international postage stamps.

Kuriyan grew up in India and studied chemistry for two years at Madras University before transferring to Juniata College for his bachelor’s degree. He obtained a doctorate. in physical chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and went on to work with graduate advisors Martin Karplus and Gregory Petsko during a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University before starting as a professor at Rockefeller University.

Kuriyan is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society. Among many accolades, he received the ASBMB-Merck Prize in 2009. He is the editor of the journal Protein Science.

Johnson wins Pew scholarship

Elizabeth Johnson, assistant professor at Cornell University, has been named to the new class of Pew Biomedical Scholars. The 22 scholarship recipients were chosen from nearly 200 applicants.

Portrait of Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Johnson

Johnson is studying how breast milk fat interacts with the infant microbiome to promote the generation of beneficial metabolites. His laboratory is also more broadly interested in the interactions between food, the microbiome and the host. They have developed a method called BOSSS which uses click chemistry to fluorescently label metabolites derived from a certain food source, then isolates the fluorescent microbes to identify specific strains that interact with specific food lipids. Using this approach, Johnson’s lab recently identified the bacterial enzyme that converts cholesterol to cholesterol-3-sulfate, which can bind to DNA methyltransferases and influence the inflammatory state.

Johnson was an undergraduate at Spelman College and earned her doctorate. at Cornell University, studying RNA dynamics to understand how cells survive quiescence or cell cycle arrest. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell and in the lab of Ruth Ley at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, where she studied the production of sphingolipids by gut microbes.

The Pew Scholars Program in Biomedical Sciences provides relevant funding to advance human health to researchers in their early years at the assistant professor level by providing grants to academic institutions to support researchers’ independent research.

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