U Magazine writes an article on Dr. Elizabeth Neufeld

UCLA Health Magazine writes an article about Dr. Elizabeth Neufeld and her devotion to further the academic mission of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA!

Click here to read the article!

ASHG Honors Leonid Kruglyak with Curt Stern Award

Congratulations to Dr. Leonid Kruglyak, recipient the 2015 Curt Stern Award!

The Curt Stern award recognizes genetics and genomics researchers who have made significant scientific contributions during the past decade. ASHG will present the award to Dr. Kruglyak which will include a crystal plaque and cash prize, on Friday, October 9, during the organization’s 65th Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

Click here to read the press release.

Congratulations to Diego Ploper!

Congratulations to Diego Ploper for defending his dissertation!

Mentor: Edward De Robertis

Egea Lab Publishes Paper in PNAS

Andrew Ah Young, a graduate student in Pascal Egea's lab published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Membrane-bound organelles form highly dynamic and interconnected networks. This complexity makes a permanent crosstalk between the organelles a necessity for the coordination of cellular functions. This fundamental aspect of eukaryotic cell biology has attracted a lot of interest in the past few years. The tight juxtaposition of membranes from different types of organelles is essential to the controlled exchanges of matter and information within cells and is mediated by various organelle-tethering protein complexes. Small metabolites and messengers such as phospholipids and calcium ions are exchanged at these membrane contact sites between organelles. Phospholipid exchange between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and mitochondria is essential for membrane biogenesis and, ultimately, cell survival. It remains unclear, however, how this exchange is facilitated.

In this collaborative study, Ah Young et al. investigate a putative involvement of the ER-mitochondrial encounter structure (ERMES), a tethering complex that bridges the ER and mitochondria, in phospholipid transport in yeast. We show that a conserved ERMES domain called the “synaptotagmin-like mitochondrial lipid-binding protein” (SMP) domain preferentially binds phosphatidylcholines and mediates the hierarchical assembly of the tether. The 17-Å-resolution EM structure of the complex formed between the SMP domains present in two ERMES subunits, Mdm12 and Mmm1, reveals an elongated, tubular-shaped heterotetramer traversed by a hydrophobic channel, suggesting a mechanism for lipid transport between the two organelles.

Click here to read the full article.


Congratulations to Andrew Pati Ah Young!

The Department of Biological Chemistry congratulates Andrew Pati Ah Young for defending his dissertation!

Vincent Pasque receives Honorable Mention for Chancellor's Award

Vincent Pasque, a postdoctoral scholar in Kathrin Plath's lab received an honorable mention for the 2015 UCLA Chancellor Award for Postdoctoral Research.

The Chancellor's Award for Postdoctoral Research provides a stipend ranging from $1,000 - $5,000 each to especially accomplished UCLA postdoctoral scholars recognized for their outstanding research. This prize was established in 1998 to recognize the important contributions that postdoctoral scholars make to UCLA's research mission. 26 postdoctoral scholars (out of 1,133) were nominated for the prestigious award that recognizes individual research accomplishments. 

Congratulations to Dr. Kelsey Martin!

Dr. Kelsey Martin appointed the new Executive Vice Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor of the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.

Dear Colleagues:

It is with great pride that I write to announce the appointment of Kelsey Martin, M.D., Ph.D., as the Executive Vice Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor of the David Geffen School of Medicine, effective April 15, 2015.

Dr. Martin joined the UCLA faculty in 1999.  A Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, she has served as Chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry since 2010 and as Chair of the Basic Science Chairs of the David Geffen School of Medicine since 2012.  Dr. Martin also currently serves as Director of the UCLA Neuroscience Research Theme.  She co-directed of the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program from 2005- 2013.

Dr. Martin’s career at UCLA illustrates her deep commitment to fundamental scholarship, basic and translational science, and visionary leadership for the School of Medicine.  Dr. Martin’s scientific work has elucidated fundamental new knowledge of the molecular biological mechanisms underlying learning and memory.  Under Dr. Martin’s leadership, the Department of Biological Chemistry has recruited some of the world’s best scientists and strengthened an already enormously accomplished basic science department, which currently boasts five National Academy of Science Members and four Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators.  First as the Co-Director of the UCLA-Caltech MSTP and then as Chair of the Basic Science Chairs, Dr. Martin has led the effort to more effectively bridge the basic sciences with the clinical sciences. As the newly appointed Executive Vice Dean, Dr. Martin hopes to continue these efforts as well as to help the UCLA School of Medicine more creatively and effectively engage with the local Los Angeles community as the city’s foremost public institution that is committed to the alleviation of suffering through rigorous and compassionately motivated scientific inquiry.

This new phase in Dr. Martin’s career represents the bringing together of her deep interest in the human condition and an equally strong desire to make a difference in the world.  She received her B.A. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University.  She then spent two and one-half years as a Peace Corps volunteer, leading health prevention efforts in remote villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Profoundly affected by the experience, Dr. Martin realized the potential power of medicine practiced within a social and scientific context.  Especially inspired by her experience in preventing infectious disease through vaccination programs, she enrolled in the M.D./Ph.D. program at Yale University, where her Ph.D. research addressed the question of how influenza virus infects cells.  After completing medical school, she was struck by that fact that neuropsychiatric disorders seemed as intractable as many of the diseases she had encountered in Africa, in part, because we lacked fundamental knowledge about brain biology and the ways in which brain biology interacts with the psychological and social to create clinical disease.  These intellectual and clinical concerns led her to join the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel at Columbia University to pursue post-doctoral research on the molecular biology of learning and memory.

Dr. Martin will step down as Chair of Biological Chemistry, and Dr. John Colicelli will serve as interim chair of the department.  Dr. Larry Zipursky will assume the leadership of the Neuroscience Theme.

I ask that you join me in congratulating Dr. Martin on her new position and that you offer her your support as she makes the transition to Executive Vice Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor.
John Mazziotta, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor, UCLA Health Sciences
Dean, David Geffen School of Medicine

Shivan Bonanno awarded NRSA Award

Congratulations to Shivan Bonanno! He has been awarded a National Research Service Award!

Shivan Bonanno, a graduate student in Dr. Kelsey Martin's lab has been awarded a National Research Service Award (NRSA) for his project on CRTC1 phosphorylation and transcriptional activity during hippocampal plasticity.

In Memoriam Professor Armand Fulco

Professor Emeritus Armand Fulco passes away at the age of 82.

Armand joined the Biological Chemistry faculty in 1965 as an assistant professor and became an emeritus professor in October 2003. Armand’s friends fondly describe him as a “Bruin through and through.” Armand began his UCLA career in the early 1950s and graduated with a B.S. degree in Chemistry in 1957. He remained at UCLA for his PhD working on the metabolism of fatty acids in the laboratory of Jim Mead in the Department of Physiological Chemistry. Finishing his PhD in 1960, he moved to Harvard University to continue his training in lipid biochemistry as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Konrad Bloch. In1963, Armand returned to UCLA and from 1963 to 1965 worked as a research biochemist in the Department of Biophysics and Nuclear Medicine.  Since 1965, he has remained in the Department of Biological Chemistry, becoming a full professor in 1976.
Armand had a distinguished research career. Extending his work on lipid metabolism, he discovered a bacterial fatty acid metabolizing enzyme that was cytochrome P450 dependent and inducible by phenobarbital. For most of his career, he studied the structure and regulation of the cytochrome P450 monooxygenases in his favorite model organism, Bacillus Megaterium. In later years, he turned his attention to the study of barbiturate-inducible P450 genes in rat. At the same time, Armand was a dedicated educator. He trained numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and, later in his career, became an integral member of the School of Medicine’s Admissions Committee. Underscoring his commitment to medical education, he continued to be an active teacher as an emeritus faculty member and in 2004 received the Excellence in Teaching Award, presented by the UCLA School of Medicine Class of 2006.

Since Armand’s passing, I have spoken to numerous faculty members about Armand as a person, scientist, and teacher. He touched many with his wisdom, kindness, humor and friendship, and will be sorely missed. 

A memorial service for Armand will be held inside the California Room at the Faculty Center on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 2pm.

(written by Kelsey Martin, Professor and Chair, Biological Chemistry)

Armand's obituary has been posted in the LA Times.

Biological Chemistry Faculty Search

The department's faculty job talk starts next week!


Date of TalkName Time location
Thursday, February 5Neville Sanjana10am1357 Gonda
Thursday, February 12Nicholas Guydosh10am13-105 CHS
Wednesday, February 18Weizhe Hong4pm23-105 CHS
Thursday, February 26Brandon Toyama10am53-105 CHS
Monday, March 2Emily Hatch10am53-105 CHS
Thursday, March 5Won-Suk Chung10am53-105 CHS
Thursday, March 12Hao Yuan Kueh10am13-105 CHS
Thursday, March 26Brooke Emerling10am53-105 CHS


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