Mr Vaithish Velazhahan (2018)
As an undergraduate at Kansas State University double majoring in Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, I worked in the lab of Dr. Kathrin Schrick where I pursued multiple independent projects. I used biophysical tools to characterize direct targets of dietary flavonoids, which are abundantly found in fruits and vegetables and are known to possess anti-cancerous properties. This project emerged from my quest to understand protein-flavonoid interactions. As the only person conducting this research, I had to teach myself a lot of different techniques and face numerous challenges, but in the process I developed a great love and appreciation for the visualization of protein structures. During my PhD in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), I will be using electron cryo-microscopy to uncover new structures of activated states of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Over 40% of commercially available drugs target GPCRs; therefore, it is important to understand their structures to design new drugs to treat a variety of human diseases. I am very excited to contribute to advances in electron cryo-microscopy, and I am grateful for this opportunity to work alongside and learn from world-class scientists in the LMB. Besides science, I enjoy working towards bridging global health disparities. I have worked with MEDLIFE in Peru and Ecuador, and I also run my own non-profit WE SAVE in India where we are developing technology to connect doctors with underserved patients.