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Beckman Scholars




VU Beckman Scholar: Joseph Crivelli

B.A., Mathematics(anticipated), 2011, Vanderbilt University
Born in Valley Stream, New York and raised in Plainview, New York; and Yorktown Heights, New York, Joseph began his studies at Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate in 2007. He began his research experience in the laboratory of Jens Meiler in 2008, examining physical modeling of protein-peptide interactions with the long-term goal of developing novel protein antibiotics through computational techniques. In addition to conducting research through the VU Beckman Scholars Program, he has academic interests in mathematical biology, Spanish language and literature, and participates in a variety of community service activities.


VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Prof. Jens Meiler, Department of Chemistry

Dr. Meiler began his research career as an undergraduate student at Leipzig University, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in 2001 from the Frankfurt University in Germany and completed post-doctoral work with Dr. David Baker at the University of Washington in Seattle. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2005. Research in Dr. Meiler's laboratory seeks to fuse computational and experimental efforts to investigate proteins, the fundamental molecules of biology, and their interactions with small molecule substrates, therapeutics, or probes. We develop computational methods with three major ambitions in mind:

  1. to enable protein structure elucidation of membrane proteins the primary target of most therapeutics and large macromolecular complexes such as viruses;
  2. design proteins with novel structure and/or function to explore novel approaches to protein therapeutics and deepen our understanding of protein folding pathways, and
  3. understand the relation between chemical structure and biological activity quantitatively in order to design more efficient and more specific drugs.

Crucial for our success is the experimental validation of our computational approaches which we pursue in our laboratory or in collaboration with other scientists. Dr. Meiler's lab is powered by a vigorous group of graduate and undergraduate researchers.


VU Beckman Scholar: Nathanael Levinson

B.A., Chemistry, Biological Sciences(anticipated), 2012, Vanderbilt University
Born in and raised in State Charlotte, N.C., Nathanael arrived in Nashville in 2008 to matriculate at Vanderbilt University. In 2009, he began undergraduate research under the direction of Sandra Rosenthal, contributing to studies of fluorescent imaging of transporter proteins with drug-conjugated nanocrystals and nanocrystal synthesis. In addition to completing this research as a part of the VU Beckman Scholars Program, he enjoys membership in the Old School Gamers Club.


VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Sandra Rosenthal, Professor of Chemistry

Professor Sandy Rosenthal studied chemistry, physics and mathematics while playing Division 1 basketball at Valparaiso University, graduating with Honors in Chemistry in 1987. An undergraduate research experience at the University of Chicago led her to pursue her Ph.D. there in Physical Chemistry. She became a skilled femtosecond spectroscopist and uncovered the inertial contribution to femtosecond solvent dynamics. After completing her Ph.D. in 1993 she turned her eye towards materials and took an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to study semiconductor nanocrystals. Beginning her career at Vanderbilt in 1996, she has established a research program that studies both the fundamentals of nanocrystals (synthesis, characterization, ultrafast carrier dynamics) and the applications of nanocrystals in solar energy conversion, solid state lighting, and as biological imaging agents, particularly in neuroscience. She, her group, and collaborators are trying to reveal molecular mechanisms of mental illness using ligand conjugated fluorescent nanocrystals to map the dynamics of neruotransmitter transporter proteins. Professor Rosenthal was promoted to full Professor in 2008.

 Jiang   VU Beckman Scholar: Jiang Liwei

B.A., Physics, (anticipated), 2011, Vanderbilt University
Born in Nanjing, China, Liwei moved to the United States at age ten. He had resided in Johnson City, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and Morehead, Kentucky, before settling down in Durham, North Carolina. In 2007 he matriculated at Vanderbilt University as a College Scholar in the College of Arts and Science. Liwei's undergraduate research began with the Systems Biology and Bioengineering Undergraduate Research Experience (SyBBURE) in the summer of 2008. His independent project, which involved making a gadget to trap cells and small organisms for long-duration microscopy, is continued during his tenure as a Beckman Scholar. He greatly enjoys photography and billiards.

  VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Christopher Janetopoulos, Professor of Biology

Dr. Janetopoulos started his scientific career as a biology and premedical major at Augustana College, Rock Island, IL. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Biology at Texas A&M University in 1999. His Ph.D. work in the laboratory of Dr. Karl Aufderheide focused on micromanipulation of organelles in living cells using laser optical optical force traps and led to the discovery of a novel organelle during Tetrahmena thermophila conjugation. Dr. Janetopoulos went on to do post-doctoral work in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Devreotes at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. It was here that he was introduced to the model system Dictyostelium discoideum and began focusing his studies on cell polarity and cell migration, two fundamental cell processes that are critical during the life cycle of organisms. Defects in either in humans can result in numerous disease states, including many forms of cancer. Dr. Janetopoulos has had his own laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University since 2005. His laboratory uses biochemistry and cell biology approaches to study G-protein-mediated cell signaling and determine how cells migrate. Dr. Janetopoulos also has strong ties to the Department of Physics and is developing novel technologies for the microscopic imaging of cells and other biological specimens. Work in his laboratory is being done by postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and a team of undergraduate researchers.

 Qi   VU Beckman Scholar: Jenny Qi

B.A., Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2011, Vanderbilt University
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jenny arrived in Nashville in 2007 to matriculate at Vanderbilt University. In 2009, she began undergraduate research under the direction of Josh Gamse, contributing to studies of left-right brain asymmetry in the model organism Danio rerio. In addition to completing this research as a part of the VU Beckman Scholars Program, she enjoys membership in the College Scholars and Chancellor's Scholars programs.
 Gamse   VU Beckman Scholar Mentor: Prof. Joshua Gamse, Department of Biological Sciences

Dr. Gamse began his research career as an undergraduate student at Rice University in Houston, TX. He received his Ph.D. in 2000 from MIT in Cambridge, MA and completed postdoctoral work with Dr. Marnie Halpern at the Carnegie Institution in Baltimore, MD. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2005. Dr. Gamse's lab uses the zebrafish Danio rerio as a model organism to understand the development of left-right asymmetry in the brain. Left-right differences in the brain are thought to increase processing capacity and speed, and are found throughout the vertebrate lineage including humans. Errors in asymmetric brain development have been linked to psychiatric and learning disorders including schizophrenia and dyslexia. Dr. Gamse's lab uses genetic and embryological approaches to identify genes required to form left-right differences in the brain, with the long term goal of understanding the behavioral outputs of particular asymmetric genes, neurons, and circuits. A group of graduate and undergraduate scientists drive the research in the Gamse lab.

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