Dessert bar + beer and wine = Dancing biophysicists

Physics and dance- what a combination! 3 years ago, I entered John Bohannon’s “Dance your Ph.D. contest” with a tango, but tonight at the annual BPS Dance, I think I would have been given a run for my money. Hundreds- maybe thousands- of biophysicists dancing to Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ while cradling a few beers or glasses of wine in their hands. It was truly a unique sight for the Baltimore Hilton Ballroom. Not only did the annual dance provide BPS attendees a venue at which to relax and let loose, but it allowed attendees to mingle in a less professional environment. I met several graduate students, post-docs, and even a few assistant-professors who were able to guide me along my path towards an academic career.

Today I presented my poster, which I presumed to be over a 1-hour time slot (actually turned out to be more of a 3-hour time slot), and did not get the chance to scope out other posters in my session. This was unfortunate, as there were many protein-DNA interaction abstracts that appeared to be very promising. However, I did make it in time for the latter half of the afternoon ‘Protein-DNA interaction’ platform which featured quite a few talks that were fairly relevant to my general area of study. Qing Shao from Emory University gave a great talk on the role of DNA stiffness on the activity of type II topoisomerases. Topoisomerases, as their name implies (Topo = topology, isomerases = catalyzing agent for structural rearrangement) regulate the topology of cellular DNA, particularly during processes that inadvertently induce topological rearrangements such as supercoils such as DNA transcription or translation. In Shao’s work, she showed that a DNA analog synthesized with 2,6, Diaminopurine bases (i.e. significantly stiffer DNA than DNA containing Adenine bases) affects the activity of topoisomerases based solely on the DNA stiffness. The general conclusion of this work showed that DNA local topology has a significant effect on topoisomerase function.

In the same platform, Friedrich Schwartz from TU Dresden spoke about Type III Restriction Endunucleases, and the role of ATP-coupling to 1D protein search mechanisms. Previously, I had assumed that most proteins find their target sites through brownian 1D diffusion (independent of energy cofactors), yet Schwartz’s work showed that certain proteins, such as Type III endonucleases, are able to modulate their search mechanisms with high-energy cofactors such as ATP. Neat stuff!

Tomorrow is the last full day of the BPS meeting… If any of you are still looking for great places to eat at BPS, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of my most recent meals(best so far: very authentic Ethiopian restaurant, Tabor, featuring BYOB), and a picture of my very cute and comfy youth hostel:


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