Paths re-crossing

I love going Biophysical Society conferences.  If I had to name my three favorite aspects, I’d choose

  1. The positivity!  I love the vibe of a building full of thousands of people who are excited about what they do, take pride in doing it well, and are eager to support others to do the same.
  2. The common love of learning.  It’s like nature is our must-see TV show, and this is our water cooler.  We love all the twists and talking about how we understand what might happen next.
  3. The reminders that the world is pretty small, and most paths cross repeatedly.

Today all three came together when I had the good fortune to talk with Zhe Wu, a postdoctoral associate in Prof. Klaus Schulten’s group at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  We’d first met in 2012  when I visited the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  At that time, Zhe was finishing up his PhD developing coarse-grained models, advised by Profs. Qiang Qui and Arun Yethiraj.  For the last three years, he’s been leveraging his expertise in Prof. Schulten’s lab at UIUC, as part of an effort to understand how the SNARE complex drives membrane fusion.

The two of us had been working quietly at the same table for an hour when he recognized me and introduced himself.  Considering how long it’d been since our last conversation, we jumped right in to talking about the work he’s reporting here at #BPS16!  Using a combination of fully atomistic MD simulations, advanced sampling methods, and coarse-grained models, they’ve characterized the hemi-fusion intermediate stage of membrane fusion, finding good agreement with results to measurements from optical tweezers.  I don’t want to steal his thunder, so I will stop there and recommend you visit his poster on Monday afternoon.

As we talked about his career plans and finding a tenure-track position, I was particularly impressed with his thoughtfulness in articulating what differentiates his work.  For today’s graduate students and postdocs, the academic career path is harder and more complex than ever.  It was encouraging to see that he’s well-prepared to take that next step, and I look forward to great things!


Take home message: Check out Zhe’s poster on Monday afternoon!  His session is from 2:45-3:45 in the West Hall; the presentation number is 1240-Pos and the board number is B217.




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