Physics alumnus lands postdoc fellowship with Nobel Laureate

Physics alumnus Jeevan GC has been named a research fellow at Columbia University in New York. He is working alongside Joachim Frank, a 2017 Nobel Laureate and founder of cryo-electron microscopy – the process of freezing molecules, recording their activity and then creating 3D images of it. As part of Frank’s lab, GC will combine theoretical and computational biophysics to search for cures including inflammation and neurodegenerative disorders.

At FIU, GC worked with a class of proteins called transformer proteins under the mentorship of Bernard Gerstman and Biomolecular Sciences Institute associate director and physicist Prem Chapagain. His training in their labs provided much of the skills he needed to perform physics-based molecular dynamics simulations and targeting viral proteins for identifying antiviral drugs with a particular virus. He found this helpful in exploring significant changes in protein structure, such as Ebola virus protein VP40, a potential therapeutic target.

GC says his most significant contribution to date was identifying a novel lipid molecule, 25-hydroxycholesterol (25HC), that induces proinflammatory response after the viral infection caused by the influenza A virus. His research career is a world away from where he grew up –  in rural Nepal where basic infrastructure, including electricity and transportation, was lacking. Agriculture was his family’s primary source of income. With no modern distractions, GC developed a deep attachment to nature, often wondering how it all worked. His father, wanting to foster GC’s curiosity, enrolled him in an English school not far from their village. One day, he attended a seminar by a guest speaker — Prem Chapagain. It was that lecture that introduced him to FIU and put him on his path to a research career in the United States.

The 2017 Ph.D. graduate has spent the past three years working in Senthil Natesan’s lab in the Department of Pharmaceutical Science at Washington State University. While there he applied his computational skills to identify 25HC binding site and conformational change in a receptor protein called integrin. This work was published in Nature Communications.