Organizing a biophysics forum from the left are UTHealth’s Vasanthi Jayaraman, Ph.D., University of Virginia’s Edward Egelman, Ph.D., and University of Pennsylvania’s Michael Ostap, Ph.D. (PHOTO CREDIT: Biophysical Society)
Organizing a biophysics forum from the left are UTHealth’s Vasanthi Jayaraman, Ph.D., University of Virginia’s Edward Egelman, Ph.D., and University of Pennsylvania’s Michael Ostap, Ph.D. (PHOTO CREDIT: Biophysical Society)

If you need someone to develop a scientific program that will attract approximately 6,000 researchers in the field of biophysics, Vasanthi Jayaraman, Ph.D., is the person to talk to.

Back from the annual meeting of the Biophysical Society in Los Angeles, the professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was one of only two program committee co-chairs.

“Dr. Jayaraman and her co-chair Dr. Michael Ostap brought the breadth of scientific knowledge and understanding of science necessary to put together a program that would attract the very best researchers from around the world,” said Biophysical Society Executive Officer Ro Kampman, noting that many attendees were from abroad.

McGovern Medical School was well represented with Alemayehu “Alex” Gorfe, Ph.D., giving a talk on cell signaling; Elena Govorunova, Ph.D., presenting on optogenetics; and Ilya Levental, Ph.D., with an address on protein structures. Irina Serysheva, Ph.D., was the program chair for the inaugural electron microscopy subgroup session.

“The biochemistry faculty members of McGovern Medical School are very proud of the leadership role that Dr. Jayaraman plays in the Biophysical Society, a major organization representing biochemists,” said Rodney Kellems, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “Her research accomplishments and scientific judgment must be held in high regard for her to be given the responsibility to organize the annual meeting of this prestigious organization.”

So just what is biophysics? It is a bridge between biology and physics, which researchers use to search for patterns in life and analyze them with math and physics. “Biophysicists apply physical laws to the understanding of biological processes and mechanisms,” Kampman said.

The scientific program organized by Jayaraman and her co-chair from the University of Pennsylvania included 22 symposia, four workshops, and lectures by two Nobel Laureates.

In Jayaraman’s laboratory, researchers are furthering the understanding of learning and memory in hopes of developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. In particular, they are studying the overproduction of a protein associated with these diseases.

In addition to basic biomedical research, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conducts preclinical and translational investigations into pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, visual disorders, and sickle cell disease.

Gorfe, Jayaraman, Kellems, Levental and Serysheva are on the faculty of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.