Introducing…the 2016 BPS Annual Meeting Bloggers!

With the Society’s 60th Annual Meeting one week away, we are excited to introduce you to the 2016 Annual Meeting Guest Bloggers.  These individuals have graciously volunteered to share their experiences at the meeting with you, giving you new perspectives on all that is going on at the jam-packed meeting (as well as outside the convention center!)  Our bloggers hail from around the world and bring a variety of interests and backgrounds to the table…let’s meet them!


Bardhan photoJay Bardhan is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, where his focus is on understanding biomolecule-solvent interactions using multiscale modeling.  Jay loves walking through the poster sessions at the BPS annual meetings and seeing the huge breadth of work represented.  He notes that he always learns about new fascinating topics at the poster sessions.  “Plus, along the way I get to catch up with colleagues whom I only ever see at the BPS annual meeting.”  The local attraction Jay is most excited about seeing is the convention center itself—where the opening scene for the movie Face/Off took place.  He would also love to see any of the people involved with Inside Out…he is reading and really enjoying Amy Poehler’s book right now.  Not a surprise since Jay’s hobbies include watching and performing comedy, both improv and standup! He has found comedy classes to be a total blast, and to have made a big difference in his career too.

Jay is presenting a poster on Monday at 2:45 PM, which shows his lab’s recent development of a Poisson-Boltzmann model that accurately reproduces solvation thermodynamics and hydration-shell effects (Program # 1617-Pos, Poster board # B594).  You can learn more about Jay on his lab’s webpage, and follow him on Twitter @jbardhan. He notes, “I have gotten a more responsible haircut since that picture was taken.”


HannaBarriga photoHanna Barriga is a postdoctoral fellow at Imperial College London, where she specializes in membrane biophysics.  At BPS16, she is looking forward to meeting potential collaborators and hearing talks from research areas outside of her own.  She also plans to visit the Hollywood sign and catch up with a cousin who lives in LA while in town.  As for the Oscar crowd, she would love to see Kate Winslet, Eddie Redmayne, or Matt Damon.   Her interests include Sweden, playing the flute, and dancing (Jamaican Dancehall, Latin American).

Hanna will be presenting a poster entitled ‘Engineering curvature and phase separation in model lipid bilayers’ in the Membrane Structure I poster session on Sunday February 28th. “Please come and say hello!”   You can also follow Hanna on her personal blog and on twitter @hannabarriga.


Brandie Cross (not pictured) is the founder of The Pot Lab, where her research focuses on cannabinoids, calcium signaling, cancer, natural products, calcium channels, and GPCRs.  Brandie writes that “At The Pot Lab, we use ancient approaches combined with modern cell and molecular biology research to create eco-friendly alternatives to petroleum based medical formulations.”  Brandie is especially interested in learning about advances in the areas natural and alternative medicine in crystallography while at BPS16.  When not in the lab, Brandie’s hobbies include bgirl (also known as breakdancing), collecting music, and painting (acrylic).  She also advocates for civil rights and medical amnesty for children and the terminally ill.  Having grown up in LA, she is nonplussed about the thought of spotting any celebrities, but she has seen her share over the years!  She is eager to show off the amazing variety of culture of LA to her colleagues. In addition to reading Brandie’s posts on this blog, you can follow her on Twitter at @ThePotLab.

Dotson photoDavid Dotson is a graduate student at Arizona State University, where he is studying molecular dynamics simulation, scientific software development, and membrane transporters.  At BPS16, he is mostly interested in exploring new developments in software and simulation methods, in particular open source software projects. “The work of science is these days driven by the quality of our software tools, and open source tools allow for the collective wisdom of the community to be shared and improved in ways consistent with the way science itself should operate,” he writes. As a scientific software developer himself, David is looking forward to sharing what he notices on the BPS blog!  Given his interest in software development, it is no surprise that David considers himself a “Linux nerd” and spends his free time working on software projects tangentially related to doing science.  He does note that he does  have a couple dogs that really like going to the park, and also enjoys PC gaming.  As for celebrity sightings, David says he won’t share his celebrity crushes but thinks it would be pretty neat to run into a DiCaprio, Cranston, or Bale.

David will be presenting a poster on Wednesday March 2 at 10:30.  You can also follow him on Twitter or his Blog, The Smaller Things.


20131002-Satchal_Erramilli-001Satchal Erramilli is a doctoral candidate at Purdue University in the lab of Cynthia Stauffacher, where he studies the structure and function of ATP-binding cassette transporters. He is currently grappling with writer’s block as he is in the final few months of his PhD. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, he found it much easier to write this post.) Satchal will be defending his thesis in early April, after which he will be joining the lab of Tony Kossiakoff at the University of Chicago for a postdoctoral position.

The Biophysical Society Annual Meeting is his favorite conference to attend, and he has participated in it several times before. For this year’s Annual Meeting, he is looking forward to the Cryo-EM subgroup meeting on Saturday, the “Lipid Flippases” session on Monday, and David Shaw’s National Lecture. Satchal is also planning on attending the “Time-resolved Crystallography” workshop on Tuesday evening. As Satchal is interested in an academic teaching career, he is also looking forward to the “Teaching Science Like We Do Science” session and the NSF Grant Writing Panel.

Satchal has visited Los Angeles many times before, but never during the Academy Awards Ceremony. Of course, with the BPS Annual Meeting in town, he can’t understand why someone would possibly want to attend the Oscars instead. (Although he thinks a red carpet-style event would make for an entertaining addition to the BPS meeting.) He would be thrilled to meet Bryan Cranston and ask him to expound a bit on his discussion of Synchrotron technology and protein crystallography from Breaking Bad.

Outside of the lab, Satchal enjoys leisure reading, blogging, traveling, cooking, and discussing politics. Drop by his poster (B488) on Sunday between 2:45 – 3:45 to hear about ABC transporters, his thoughts on the upcoming elections, and his travel plans for 2016, which include trips to Vietnam and Australia. And if you’re a foodie like Satchal, you’re welcome to join him on trips to Atwater Village and Koreatown to enjoy local cuisines. In addition to the blog, you can follow Satchal’s exploits at the BPS meeting on Twitter at @skerramilli.


Chitrak_blogpicChitrak Gupta is a graduate student at West Virginia University where he studies Structural biology, biomolecular simulation and physical chemistry.  He finds the discussions with scientists working in different branches of biophysics to always be the most exciting part of attending a BPS meeting. This is Chitrak’s second consecutive year serving as a guest meeting blogger, and is hoping that with one meeting under his belt, he will be a pro at navigating all the meeting has to offer. Chitrak is looking forward to visiting the beach and seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time since he came to the US six years ago, Madame Tussaud’s museum, and Hollywood—travel is one of his hobbies.   He also considers himself a “foodie” and wants to try out some different cuisines while in LA.  Like a few other of our bloggers, Chitrak, is also hoping to spot Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale, and maybe Kate Winslet too on the streets of LA.  Chitrak is presenting a poster on Sunday, February 28 at 2:45 pm.


hanson photoSonya Hanson is a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Her research area is small molecule binding, ion channels (TRP channels), modeling experimental error, and molecular dynamics. Sonya is looking forward to meeting up with old colleagues and collecting a free T-shirt from Avestin. Having attended college at nearby USC, Sonya is not planning on spending much time being a tourist, but is looking forward to taking part in LA’s food scene.  She has already scheduled a Paella cooking class; and recommends that you check out the trailer for the documentary, “City of Gold”for another take on eating in LA.  She does recommend that others check out the Getty and Griffith Observatory.  In her spare time, Sonya enjoys playing the French horn and recently started taking improv comedy classes, which she has found to be a lot of fun. She writes, “I was somewhat inspired by a week I spent last year at ‘Science Communication Boot Camp’ at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.”  And speaking of improv, with the Oscars in town, Sonya wouldn’t mind bumping into Inside Out cast members and nominees Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling, or Chewbacca and Han Solo.

Sonya will be presenting her poster, Dissecting the Contribution of Kinase Conformational Reorganization Energies to Inhibitor Selectivity, during the Protein-Small Molecule Interactions II poster session on Wednesday March 2 on Board 67.  You can also follow her on twitter @sonyahans (where she is proud to have recently surpassed her boss @chodera in followers) or on her personal blog, look closer.


Howard photoRebecca (Reba) Howard, is an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department and affiliate member of the Neuroscience Program at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.  Her research areas include biochemistry, molecular neuroscience, ion channel structure and function, allosteric modulation, and oocyte electrophysiology.  Reba is currently on sabbatical and not presenting at the meeting. Instead she is taking advantage of her leave to focus on listening, learning, and writing.  She is particularly excited that “this year’s program promises unusually juicy content on ligand-gated ion channels, including symposia, platforms, and plenty of new structures.”  She is also looking forward to hearing from National Lecturer DE Shaw about his unique approach to research funding, to reconnect with current and former colleagues she hasn’t seen since Baltimore, and for the expert conversations Biophysical Society enables that are not always accessible in a small college environment.  Rebecca has recently begun getting back into music and photography; she attended the Sweet Way out West Fest in the fall, which was a particular highlight for both interests.  Reba hopes to get away from the convention center to check out the Santa Monica Farmers Market, and maybe spot Oscar nominee Antony Hegarty (up for Best Original Song).   You can follow her sabbatical travels at


Anam Qudrat (not pictured) is a second year PhD student at the University of Toronto studying protein engineering.  She is looking to attending the symposia, especially Synthetic Biology, Signalling Complexes and Dynamics (Sunday); Biomimetic Models for the Study of Cytoskeletal Organization (Monday); Folding Rates and Routes: Defining Principles (Monday); Emerging Techniques for the Study of Cell Mechanics (Tuesday), and Crowding and Order in the Genome (Wednesday).   Anam hopes to take a stroll on Hollywood Boulevard if she can squeeze it in, and would love to go home with a story of how she bumped into Angelina Jolie.  Away from the lab, Anan loves landscape photography and learning languages, both human and computer!

Anam is presenting the following posters at the meeting and encourages blog readers to drop by:
Sunday, February 28, 1:45: Synthesizing Lovinc, a Light-Activated Dnae Intein, for Several Target Proteins
Monday, February 29, 1:45: Receptor-Localized Ca2+ Signaling Activates P2x2 Receptor Changing Cytoskeletal Morphology and at 2:45: Modular Assembly of Synthetic Proteins that Span the Plasma Membrane in Mammalian Cells.
Wednesday March 2, 11:30: Genomic Integration Occurs on the Packaging Cell Via Unexported Lentiviral Precursors.


Sewanan photoLorenzo Sewanan is a MD/PhD candidate at Yale University, where he specializes in tissue engineering, cardiac muscle mechanics, cardiomyopathy, and computational modeling.  He is looking forward to meeting motivated and inspiring scientists, especially in the area of mechanosensation and mechanotransduction, while at BPS16.  When not making connections over posters. Lorenzo is hoping to check out some local breweries/microbreweries in LA, which we might read about here since Lorenzo enjoys cooking and writing when not in the lab.   Oh, and he also wouldn’t mind running into Jennifer Lawrence while in town.    You can meet Lorenzo and learn more about his research on Wednesday March 2 when he presents during the Cardiac Muscle Mechanics and Structure II poster session.


Agila Somasundaram photoAgila Somasundaram is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Her research interests are in in neuroscience, cell biology, and microscopy.  Having not attended a BPS meeting in a while, she is excited to be part of the community again. She is looking forward to attending many interesting scientific and career sessions, and is particularly intrigued by the ‘The Science of Hollywood’ session!   She will be on the lookout for Harrison Ford when she is out exploring the city and its culture in her free time.  Outside of science Agila writes, “I love the outdoors, and enjoys hiking. I also enjoy swing dancing, and take delight in learning the keyboard and dabbling in new languages, Spanish being my current venture.”  She is also very excited about blogging at the meeting!   Meet Agila when she presents her poster (# B271) on Tuesday March 1 in the Exocytosis and Endocytosis I session.


TeresaSwanson photoTeresa Swanson is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Washington, where she studies Pharmacology, X-ray Crystallography and Membrane proteins.   At BPS16, she is looking forward to the career center, conversations on the current state of the scientific community, and meeting new colleagues.  As an extrovert, she is also looking forward to the chaos and energy that large crowds have when they’re together for a common interest.   Teresa does not have much interest in the lives of Hollywood stars, but would enjoy chatting with some of the women who are taking a stand for feminism and demanding equality for women, such as Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence and Gillian Anderson. Like her lab meeting presentations, Teresa has not mapped out her plans for her time in LA, and plans to wing it when she gets there.  She does enjoy a good meal with friends, whether its home cooked or in a restaurant—so hopefully she’ll be able to fit one in while in LA!  Her other interest include commuting by bike when Seattle isn’t too wet, and watching football and hockey—in person when she can!  She will also be presenting a late breaking abstract…check the addendum for the time!  You can follow Teresa on Twitter at @SciSwany.


thomas photoEmily Elizabeth Thomas is a fourth year PhD student at Rice University studying protein engineering/design and synthetic biology.  She is excited about BPS16 because it is in a sunny place with great weather (awesome), has a lot of diverse and exciting research (more awesome), and her sister Monica who is in grad school at the Medical College of Wisconsin is going to be at the meeting with her (the most awesome)!   She has big plans for her time in LA, and plans to go with her sister to see a space shuttle at the California Science Center, check out the mountains in the Angeles National Forest (“with her in Milwaukee and me in Houston, we are going through serious mountain withdrawals”), get cultured by some art at the Getty Museum, go running in Runyon Canyon (since is that not the perfect name for a canyon to run in?), and check out the La Brea Tar Pits!  As a scientist who likes to write, Andy Weir is definitely near the top of the list of Hollywood people she’d like to spot. Also, as a Star Wars fan, she says meeting any and all people associated with the films (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and BB-8 etc.) would probably make her day/year/life.  As for hobbies, Emily writes, “My lone claim to athleticism is the inability to admit I’m tired, so I like marathons, trail running, triathlons, and other long endurance activities where mere completion is worthy of merit (like grad school!). I also like to read anything that sits still long enough and am a sucker for a good story in any media.”

Emily is presenting a poster on Wednesday 10:30am to 11:30am. She writes, “Come keep me company so I don’t have to stand awkwardly at my poster wondering how much eye contact I should make with people wandering past reading poster titles.”

Chaitanya Athale is a biologist who did his PhD with Roland Eils in Heidelberg, Germany on computational imaging and simulating the biophysics of diffusion within cell nuclei. He then trained as a postdoc with Thomas Deisboeck simulating self-organised pattern formation in tumour growth using agent-based models at the Mass. General Hospital in Boston. He then moved back to Germany to work with Eric Karsenti and Francois Nédélec at EMBL Heidelberg on the biophysics of microtubule regulation in mitotic spindle assembly. He currently heads his own group in Pune, India working on the self organisation of microtubules and motors in cell shape, using simulations and in vitro reconstitutuon.


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