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Profiles in Wake Forest Physics


Sam Cho

Claire McLellan and Dr. Oana JurchescuBilly Nicholson, an undergraduate biophysics major working with Professor Samuel Cho (, performs molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of G-quadruplexes that have been shown to be an important anticancer drug target. The G-quadruplexes act as “road-blocks” in cancerous cells that inhibit their ability to perform function and induce cell death. The idea is to computationally design the best small molecules that can go into cancerous cells and stabilize G-quadruplexes. In collaboration with the experimental group of Ulrich Bierbach in the Dept. of Chemistry (, Billy has performed molecular docking calculations of several rationally designed acridine-based small molecules to the G-quadruplexes and evaluated using MD simulations how well they bind. The computer simulations pick out of the many possible small molecules and G-quadruplexes the optimal drugs that can be experimentally validated in the laboratory. Billy has presented his results at the Biophysical Society Meeting in Baltimore, MD. In the picture, Dr. Cho (left) and Billy (right) are standing next to a picture from an MD simulation of a G-quadruplex.


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Natalie A. W. Holzwarth

Matthew GottbrechtUndergraduate seniors Hannah Zhang and Zachary Pipkorn are using molecular dynamics simulation methods to study ionic conductivity in solid electrolytes.  The simulations provide insight in to the effects of atomic level events on the macroscopic behavior of the solid electrolyte materials.  This work is part of a larger project with mentor Natalie Holzwarth and graduate students Nicholas Lepley, Ahmad Al-Qawasmeh, Jason Howard, and Larry Rush to study materials related to battery technology.  


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Martin Guthold

Daniel DavidGraduate and undergraduate students often tackle complex problems together in teams.  Here, graduate student Wei Li and undergraduate student Tommy Lucioni investigate the lysis (dissolution) of blood clots in Dr. Guthold's lab.  Formation and lysis of blood clots are key processes in wound healing, heart attacks, strokes and embolisms. 


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Fred Salsbury

Pam Wang and Prof Kim-ShaprioRyan Godwin, a graduate student working with Dr. Salsbury, presents his research on the dynamics and stability of zinc fingers. Ryan work uses GPU-enabled molecular dynamics simulations to study the relationships between metal binding, protein motion and biological function with an eye towards drug development. Listening to and discussing Ryan Godwin's research are fellow graduate students Ryan Melvin and Jiajie Xiao, postdoctoral research associate Dr. Yan Lu and Professor Salsbury.


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Daniel Kim-Shapiro

Katelyn GoetzUndergraduate student John “Jack” Janes has been working with Professor Daniel Kim-Shapiro studying how the important signaling molecule nitric oxide (NO) functions under healthy conditions and how its shortage contributes to disease.  Loss of NO bioavailability contributes to pathology in sickle cell disease, transfusion of older stored blood, diabetes, and aging.  Jack has used electron paramagnetic resonance and other spectroscopies to determine the kinetics of NO consumption under various conditions.  He is now developing computational models of newly discovered pathways controlling NO bioavailability.  His work has earned him a place as a co-author on two published papers.  He has presented his experimental findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine in San Antonio in 2013 and presented new computational research at the 2014 meeting in Seattle.


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For other profiles, please visit our Profiles in Physics archives.

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