Vanderbilt PhD students in Leipzig

/ October 26, 2011/ News, Students

Stephanie and Liz are graduate students in the Meiler Laboratory at Vanderbilt University.  They both work on the computational investigation of GPCRs and their interactions with various ligands. They recently took the opportunity to do a month-long research internship at Leipzig University in conjunction with their collaborators, who perform the wet-lab experiments associated with the proteins they model. Herein, they reflect on their experiences.

Liz Dong: For 4 weeks, I worked with the lab of Dr. Torsten Schöneberg on a project involving P2Y12, a receptor involved in platelet aggregation. My part of the project was to build a model of P2Y12 using Rosetta and dock known ligands into the model to assess their binding modes. While in the lab, I had the opportunity to meet and work with the students involved in the project. Maxi Cöster, Kay Simon and Philipp Schmidt were extremely helpful in explaining the P2Y12 system to me and the assays that are used to evaluate functionality of the receptor. I even had the opportunity to work in the wet lab to assist in data collection in between running computational jobs. During my 4 weeks, I was able to build models of P2Y12 and create docking poses of the ligands we are interested in studying, which will contribute nicely to a paper we are looking to submit soon.

Stephanie DeLuca: I was in Germany for five weeks.  During the first week, I attended the summer school of the SFB 610 graduate program in Dessau, where I got to know several graduate students from both Leipzig and Halle Universities, as well as the interesting research they are doing.  One thing that surprised me is the diversity of both systems being studied and methods being used.  The following week, I joined the Beck-Sickinger lab group at their external seminar in Krummenhennersdorf.  Because everyone in the lab gave a full scientific talk, I was able to get a good idea of what kind of research Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger’s group performs, as well as learn how they approach biomedically relevant problems and what kind of experimental techniques they use.  I spent my last three weeks working in the Beck-Sickinger lab alongside Daniel Rathmann.  The goal of my visit was to learn about the experiments used to study the prolactin releasing peptide (PrRP) and its receptor.  In addition to the IP accumulation assay often used in this lab, I also observed how to do solid-state peptide synthesis (SSPS) and fluorescence microscopy.  We managed to successfully obtain concentration-response curves that we can then use to assist/validate the computational modeling of this system.

Because we stayed in a guesthouse near the city center, there were always many exciting activities to enjoy while we were not in the lab. In addition to shopping and visiting the Bach, Stasi, and Grassi museums, we saw great performances by the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Thomanerchor. We also traveled to Dresden and Berlin, where we learned more about German history.  While in Berlin, we visited many sites relevant to World War II and the Cold War, and we celebrated the German Reunification in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

The collaborative research centre SFB 610 “Variation in Protein Conformation: Cellbiological and Pathological Relevance” supported the research stay of Liz and Stephanie with a short-term-stipend.