Introducing the 2017 BPS Annual Meeting Bloggers

Once again, we are lucky to have several meeting attendees serving as Guest Bloggers during the upcoming 61st BPS Annual Meeting.   These individuals will be coming to New Orleans from around the world and with a variety of research backgrounds and experiences.  They will be providing you with their take on the Meeting’s events throughout the week. Please check back regularly to see what is going on-we are so lucky to have them!

pictureforbpsblogellenaveryEllen Avery is a master’s student in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She specializes in the field of cardiac electrophysiology under the supervision of Dr. Shetuan Zhang. This is her first time at the BPS annual meeting, and she looks forward to meeting other biophysics enthusiasts that share her love of cardiac ion channels. She is excited to attend the networking and career development events in search of advice, as she anticipates searching for PhD supervisors and planning for a career in biophysics.

Outside of the lab, Ellen loves staying active by going to spin class, running outside, and walking her dog, Penny. Ellen has been known to run outside in the dead of winter, in Canada, so you can bet she’ll be getting outside and taking full advantage of the warm New Orleans weather while at the BPS meeting! Ellen also loves music and has played the flute for 12 years, so she hopes to hunt down some jazzy tunes on Bourbon Street while in town. Stay tuned for posts about food related adventures as well—as an avid foodie, Ellen plans to eat her way through the Big Easy one bowl of gumbo at a time.

Ellen is presenting at the Ion Channels, Pharmacology and Disease II poster session on Wednesday, February 15th, between 2:45 and 3:45 pm in Hall B2-C. She encourages blog readers to drop by her poster and keep her company!

David Bunck
is a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology with Prof. davidbunckJames Heath. He is working on developing small molecules that rationally perturb the energy landscape of target proteins. He is excited to attend BPS 2017 for the great conversations at the poster session that range gritty experimental details to broader perspectives on a range of fields. On the swag circuit, he is looking forward to the Thor Labs and Avanti Polar Lipids T-shirts. Krewe du Vieux, Bourbon Street, and the World War II museum are also on the top of his list to visit.

David will be giving a talk on Monday, 13 February at 10:00 AM (Room 208/209) in the Protein Stability, Folding, and Chaperones II Platform session on modulating the folding landscape of superoxide dismutase 1, a protein implicated in Lou Gehrig’s disease. You can follow him on Twitter @dnbunck.

gumpperGreetings! I am Kristyn Gumpper, a 5th year PhD Candidate in Biomedical Sciences at The Ohio State University. My research interests lie in cell physiology, specifically in the transport of cytoplasmic vesicles driven by TRIM family proteins. My goal is to be a Professor of Biology at a liberal arts institution, similar to my undergraduate school, Allegheny College. I am looking forward to a variety of things at the BPS Annual Meeting including: the application of new and emerging methods, networking with potential employers, presenting my research during the poster competition, and colleagues, and learning how I can be successful in the next stages of my career, amongst other things. I am extremely excited that this meeting is in New Orleans, LA because it is a chance for me to visit a new and historical city while also engaging in high-quality scientific discussions. Staying in the French Quarter, although a little walk away from the conference, will allow me a chance to experience the local culture and, of course, the food. I look forward to trying real Cajun cuisine. I just hope it is not too spicy! Although I am traveling to “N’Awlins” for the science, I hope I will have time to take at least one historical tour while I am here!

My name is Chitrak Gupta and I am a graduate student studying structural biology, biomolecular simulation and data science at West Virginia University.  BPS provides me the opportunity to discuss my research with scientists with different areas of expertise. Last two BPS meetings has been extremely fruitful in this regard, and I am looking forward to another exciting BPS annual meeting. Additionally, being a guest blogger for BPS is an excellent opportunity for me to showcase my writing skills and communicate with a broader audience.  I was a guest blogger for BPS 2015 and 2016 Annual Meetings. My blogs from the previous meetings can be found at the following link

I am expecting this BPS meeting to be extremely busy for me. However, I am a foodie and enjoy trying out different cuisines.  I also love to travel. This BPS would be my first time at New Orleans, and I am hoping to find some time for local sightseeing. Definitely want to see the National WWII Museum.

I am scheduled to present my poster on Tuesday, February 14th, from 2:45 to 3:45 PM.

herneisen_alMy name is Alice Herneisen and I am a senior undergraduate student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, double majoring in biology and chemistry. I intend to pursue graduate studies in biophysics and structural biology. (In fact, I’ll be coming to the Annual Meeting directly after two interviews!) My current research uses EPR spectroscopy to investigate the structure and dynamics a membrane protein, influenza A M2. The M2 protein has a surprising array of functions encoded in its short, 97-residue sequence. While many biophysical studies have investigated the transmembrane and membrane-proximal region of M2, less is known about the conformation and dynamics of the remaining residues of the C-terminal cytoplasmic tail. I will present a poster on our research, which has characterized a part of this region at the residue-specific level.

This is my first time to the Annual Meeting – actually, it’s my first academic conference! I do have the good fortune to attend the meeting with two other undergraduates who also work in the lab. I attend a liberal arts college, so I look forward to meeting graduate students, faculty, independent researchers, and of course other undergraduate students. I also intend to take advantage of the networking opportunities offered at this year’s Meeting. This is a big meeting for me – there will be more attendees than the entire student population at my school – so I hope that this blog will encourage me to try new things and reflect on my experiences.

I will be presenting a poster, Site-Directed Spin-Labeling EPR Spectroscopy of the Cytoplasmic Tail of Influenza A M2, at the Undergraduate Mixer and Poster Fest from 4-5 PM on Saturday, Feb. 11, and as a part of the Membrane Protein Structures II session from 11:30-12:30 on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

When I am not in the lab, I like to play ultimate Frisbee! I even have an alter ego team nickname.

iwanickiMartin Iwanicki is a third year PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is studying protein design and engineering.  This is his first Biophysical Society Meeting, so he is excited to participate in the meeting both as a poster presenter and as a blogger. At BPS17, he is looking forward to attending the symposia, learning about new topics within biophysics, and meeting other scientists/graduate students. During his free time, he hopes to check out the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, the National WWII Museum, eat delicious food, and also, try to catch some pre-Mardi Gras festivities! His sister recently visited New Orleans and has given him a to-do list of what restaurants to try out every night (don’t worry – he’ll make sure to include what he eats in his blog posts for all you foodies).  Outside of science, Martin enjoys playing piano and flute, spending time with his recently adopted kittens (the cutest kittens in the world), traveling, eating new food, and kayaking. Martin will be presenting a poster on Monday, February 13, from 2:45-3:45 PM. Please stop by and visit!


jahanMerina Jahan is a fourth year Graduate Student at the University of South Carolina. Her research work focuses on Molecular modeling of biomaterials for advanced drug delivery and biosensing. She has been working on designing aptamers and polymers with a statistical thermodynamic approach. She is looking forward to learn about new advancements in computational drug design and molecular modeling in this meeting. She also plans to attend the sessions related to Career development.

She loves traveling. Her favorite time of the year is mid-fall with beautiful colors everywhere when she could have a long drive across the magnificently and vibrantly colorful Blue Ridge Mountains. She also loves to eat, specially Bangladeshi cuisine – food from her homeland. And being a food lover, she also likes to cook, but her food does not get “a soul” like they do at home.

This is the second BPS meeting for Merina and she is even more excited this time to have New Orleans, the city of Mardi Gras as the venue. She wants to walk around the famous Bourbon Street and the Jackson Square during her stay at the meeting. She will also look out for restaurants to try the local cuisine.

Merina has a presentation in the “Computational Methods and Bio-informatics” session titling “Molecular design of a nanoparticle-polymer conjugated drug delivery system for PD-166793 in cardiovascular repair”   on February 12 Sunday at 5.15pm.

chrislockhartChristopher Lockhart is a postdoctoral fellow at George Mason University, where he uses replica-exchange molecular dynamics simulations to probe the binding of the Alzheimer’s disease Aβ peptide to model lipid bilayers. At the Biophysical Society 61st Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Christopher is looking forward to interacting with other researchers who work in the field of biomolecular simulations and learning about how their simulations have been used to gain novel insight into biology—particularly amyloidogenic diseases. During his stay in New Orleans, aside from participating in the conference, Christopher plans to engage in quintessential activities such as walking down Bourbon Street at night, eating beignets for breakfast at Café Du Monde, and asking the elusive question: “Why is Blue Dog blue?”

Christopher is presenting a poster on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 1:45 PM. This poster will investigate the difference in binding of the Aβ peptide to the zwitterionic DMPC bilayer with or without calcium salt and the anionic DMPS bilayer. During the meeting, you can keep up with Christopher by following him on Twitter @doclockh.

mittalMy name is Shriyaa Mittal.  I am a second year graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I was a computer scientist but got blown away when I was first introduced to molecular biology and the Smith-Waterman algorithm in my bioinformatics class 4 years ago. Since then I have been working on the periphery of biophysics and now getting my PhD researching protein conformational dynamics via computational simulations. Apart from research, I paint (but do not draw) and have recently taken to learning Latin where I am the only graduate student in a class of freshmen and sophomores.

I will be giving a talk titled “Optimal Probes: An Efficient Method To Select DEER Distance Restraints Using Machine Learning” on February 14 (Tuesday), 11:45 AM at the Membrane Protein Dynamics Platform session.

prithviraj_nandigrami_photoMy name is  Prithviraj Nandigrami and I am a PhD candidate in biophysics at  Kent State University.  My specialty areas are physics, computational biophysics, statistical physics, and molecular dynamics simulations.  At the Meeting, I am most looking forward to the career fair, poster sessions, and all the talks relevant to my research area. I am also very much looking forward to networking with peers as well as experts in the field. I plan on defending my PhD Dissertation during Summer 2017. I am actively looking for Postdoctoral positions and believe this meeting will be great opportunity to find potential employers. I am presenting a poster on my work on Sunday, February 12, 1:45 – 3:45 PM. The title of my poster is: “Thermodynamic and kinetic representations of cooperative allosteric binding in calmodulin.”

I also plan on exploring downtown New Orleans and possibly going on a river cruise. I  want to visit local area attractions and explore Southern cuisine! This will be my first time in New Orleans!

When I am not in the lab, I like to swim, play racquetball, watch movies, listen to music.

ariane2Ariane Nunes-Alves is a PhD student at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, where she studies protein unfolding and ligand unbinding through molecular dynamics simulations. This is the second time she attends a BPS Annual Meeting. One of the things she enjoyed the most in her first time at BPS was the poster sessions, where she met new people and got in touch with new ideas. She is interested in learning more about ion channels and transporters, so she is looking forward for the Permeation and Transport subgroup meeting on Saturday and for the platform sessions about ion channels and transporters this year. At BPS17, she also expects to make contacts for a future postdoc position outside Brazil.

Ariane is scheduled to present her work ‘Weighted ensemble of pathways for ligand unbinding from T4 lysozyme’ in the Protein-Small Molecule Interactions platform session on Tuesday February 14th.

In New Orleans, Ariane is planning to visit the French quarter to see the old buildings and to walk along the famous Mississippi River.

Besides science, Ariane also enjoys coffee, wine, Greek sculptures, traveling, watching French movies and reading.

schifferMy name is Jamie Schiffer. I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment. My research focuses deciphering the roles of biological species and molecules in climate change based on atomic level insight from simulations. As a passionate writer and reader, I have found that integrating science, arts, and communication has helped me improve each of these skills individually. Outside of science and work, I enjoy cooking, frequenting breweries and wineries with friends and family, and teaching/practicing yoga.


weidemanHello Everyone!  My name is Gregory Wiedman.  I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Public Health Research Institute at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.  I study Peptides and short Oligonucleotides, specifically those generated by means of combinatorial chemistry.  I am attending the 61st Annual Biophysical Society Meeting to present my recent work on small molecule aptamers, and I will give a poster presentation during the Sunday evening poster session on Nucleic Acids.  Science outreach and bringing science to the public is especially important to me.  While in NOLA I hope to try to spend some time speaking to people and presenting outside of the conference.  I encourage everyone to do the same; don’t just leave your science back at the convention center but take it out with you wherever you go!  I hope to meet a lot of you at the conference and I’m sure that it will be a great opportunity to share our common excitement for biophysics!  If you’d like to keep in touch or keep updated with what I’m doing please feel free to follow my blog at: See you in New Orleans!  Cheers!  Greg






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