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.
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