Mr. Zikri Hasanbasri, a Ph.D. student in the MBSB Program, successfully passed his oral defense on August 31st and completed his Ph.D. The title of his dissertation talk was “A Structural Biologist Walks Into A Bar and Asks the Physical Chemist: How Can Copper Measure Distances In A Protein?”. Zikri perfromed this research under the supervision of Prof. Sunil Saxena in the Department of Chemistry at University of Pittsburgh. Prof. Saxena introduced him to pulsed-EPR spectroscopy. When combined with site-directed spin labels, pulsed-EPR can obtain sparse distance constraints within a protein. These distance constraints complement traditional structural techniques as the measurements are done in solution without size limitations. Zikri’s work centered around distance measurements using rigid Cu(II) labels that provide high-resolution structural constraints and Trityl-based labels that enable measurements in cellular environments. His work explored and developed the foundational theory in order to reduce the experimental signal acquisition time of Cu(II) measurements by more than 6-fold. Furthermore, he developed Trityl-based labels to enable in-cell examination of protein structure and dynamics under conditions that significantly reduce the cryogenic requirement for distance measurements. Overall, Zikri’s works expands the accessibility of powerful spin-labels for distance measurements for the wider scientific community. He will continue to develop his EPR knowledge and skillset beyond distance constraints at UC Davis under the mentorship of David Britt.

Congratulations, Zikri!

Please check the student and faculty websites;





Ms. Ananya Mukundan, an MD/PHD student in the MBSB Program, successfully passed her oral defense on June 1st and completed her Ph.D. degree. The title of her dissertation project is, “Structural insights into mimicry of TGF-B signaling by the murine parasite H. polygyrus”. Ananya accomplished this research under the supervision of Prof. Andrew P. Hinck in the Department of Structural Biology in University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Ananya is a student in the Medical Scientist Training Program. She will finish up her medical training in the next two years.

Congratulations, Ananya!

Please check their student and faculty websites;






It is Graduate program recruitment season!!

MBSB will have a booth at the virtual Graduate Fair, hosted by the Biophysics Society.

Date: Nov 14 and 15, 2022

URL: https://www.biophysics.org/education-careers/education-career-events/virtual-graduate-fair

This event is free for students!   See you there!

We are seeking prospective students who are highly motivated to pursue biophysical and structural biology studies. We would appreciate if you could forward the information of our program and the virtual fair to students who have a strong interest in biophysics graduate programs.







Mr. Samuel Johnson successfully passed his oral defense on March 16th, and completed his Ph.D. degree. The title of his dissertation project is, “Specificity and stoichiometry of the G-quadruplex binding protein BG4”. His supervisor Dr Patricia Opresko introduced that Sam struggled at times during his research, changed the directions, solved the problems, and finally accomplished his project. The presentation was done in a hybrid manner, both in-person and virtually. Over 40 people attended his presentation and enjoyed his presentation. 

Congratulations, Sam!




Dr. Erich Hellemann Holguín in the MBSB program successfully passed his oral defense on September 21st. The title of his dissertation project is “Computer-aided drug design: developing and applying simulation-based tools to identify small-molecule ligands that inhibit proteins”. Erich accomplished this research under the supervision of Prof. Jacob D. Durrant in the Department of Biological Science in University of Pittsburgh. His work details how computers aid in the process of discovering new candidate drugs. Erich developed a tool that leverages Weighted Ensemble simulations to enhance protein pocket conformational sampling. Erich will move to New Mexico State University as the Director of the Core Structure Determination Facility in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department.  BTW, Remote defense presentation is more like a reunion. Some of former MBSB students attended Erich’s talk and asked questions.

Congratulations, Erich!