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Fowler Fellows

amerBrendan Amer is a 6th year Biochemistry student in Professor Robert Clubb’s lab. He earned a B.A. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers University. At Rutgers, Brendan worked with Professor Gaetano Montelione, where he characterized influenza NS1 proteins and innate immune response ISG proteins utilizing NMR and X-ray crystallography. During his summers, Brendan interned at the NIMH studying the genetic epidemiology of a variety of mental health disorders, and at Weill Cornell Medical College, studying neuronal cell-fate mapping.

At UCLA, Brendan is part of the Clubb Lab where he works on bacterial macromolecular surface display. The sortase and LCP enzymes function to decorate the cell surface of pathogenic Gram-positive bacteria with a variety of complex macromolecules to facilitate critical bacterial-host, and bacterial-environment interactions. He is studying how these enzymes display complex protein-based pili, and glycopolymers on the cell surface using NMR, X-ray crystallography, biochemical, and microbiology techniques.

sahak2Anna Sahakyan is a 5th year graduate student in the Plath Lab. Anna graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a B.S. in MIMG. Before graduate school, she conducted research for two years at the UCLA AIDS Institute.

X-chromosome inactivation is a conserved process in placental female mammals regulated by the long non-coding RNA XIST. It is mostly studied in mice, where the early embryo has two active X-chromosomes and no Xist expression. Female human pre-implantation embryos also have two active X-chromosomes; however, unlike mouse cells, XIST is expressed. Anna’s work has demonstrated that naïve human pluripotent stem cells capture the X-chromosome state of the embryo, providing means to understand the uncoupling of XIST expression from X-chromosome silencing. To this end Anna plans to use RNA purification followed by mass spectrometry to identify and compare the proteins that interact with XIST when it does not induce silencing, such as in naïve stem cells, and when it does, such as in somatic cells.


Jeffrey Vinokur is currently a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s Biochemistry, Molecular, and Structural Biology Program (BSMB). Jeff studied Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has conducted university research continuously since 2006 at Rutgers, Penn State, UW-Madison, and now UCLA. Jeff conducts biofuels research in the laboratory of Dr. Jim Bowie.

Jeff’s research has uncovered a novel pathway in prehistoric bacteria that grow at pH 0 and below. The novel pathway discovered in 2013 is a variant of the mevalonate pathway which produces the building blocks of isoprenoids, a class of over 25,000 biomolecules that include cholesterol, vitamin A, heme, and natural rubber. It turns out that one of the new enzymes in this pathway, mevalonate 3-kinase, could be engineered to produce biofuels. Solving the structure of mevalonate 3-kinase showed it could be mutated to make a 5-carbon biofuel called isoprenol. Such efforts are currently underway.



Previous Fowler Fellows

2016          Henry Chan (Feigon lab), Smriti Sangwan (Eisenberg lab), Nicholas Woodall (Bowie lab)
2014          Dan McNamara (Yeates lab), Jena Quick-Cleveland (Guo lab), Nicholas Wu (Sun lab)
2013          Alex Jacobitz (Clubb lab), Alexander Patananan (S. Clarke lab), Carly Ferguson (Loo lab)
2012          Benjamin Kuryan (Carey lab), Letian Xie (C. Clarke lab), Anni Zhao (Eisenberg lab)
2011          Timothy Anderson (Clubb lab), Ian Barr (Guo lab), Soohong Kim (Weiss lab)
2010          Zeynep Durer (Reiser lab), Rachel Senturia (Guo lab), Zurita-Lopez (S. Clarke lab)
2009          Luki Goldschmidt (Eisenberg lab), Kristofer Webb (S. Clarke lab), Sheng Yin (Loo lab)
2008          Nathan Joh (Bowie lab), Neil King (Yeates lab)