Biophysical Newsletter - April 2014






Biophysicist in Profile NATALI MINASSIAN

Officers President Dorothy Beckett President-Elect Edward Egelman Past-President Francisco Bezanilla Secretary Lukas Tamm Treasurer Paul Axelsen Council Olga Boudker Taekjip Ha Samantha Harris Kalina Hristova Juliette Lecomte Amy Lee Marcia Levitus Merritt Maduke Daniel Minor, Jr. Jeanne Nerbonne Antoine van Oijen Joseph D. Puglisi Michael Pusch Bonnie Wallace David Yue Biophysical Journal Leslie Loew Editor-in-Chief

Natali Minassian did not grow up with scientist parents, but they did teach her some skills early on that continue to serve her today in her life as a scientist. Her father received his PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin. He hoped that at least one of his children would follow in his footsteps, so he encouraged Minassian and her sisters to take physics classes and taught them how to code programs. This was her first introduction to physics, and it clearly made an impression. Minassian’s mother had her Masters’ degree in architecture and worked in the planning commission for the City of Austin before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Minassian would watch her

“ Before you become saddled in dogma and what you can’t do, just try to do what no one may have ever done before. Assume the rules are just suggestions.

mother make blueprints, and would use her mother’s drafting desk, writing utensils, and geometric instru- ments to make her own designs for school projects. “This is a habit I’ve continued as a scientist. I still make detailed blueprints of my experiments when trying to design something new,” she says. In high school, Minassian began to excel in cal- culus, physics, and chemistry classes, and realized that she thoroughly enjoyed studying these topics. This convinced her to pursue biology at Santa Clara University. After receiving her BS degree, she began working at Xenoport, Inc., a biopharmaceutical

– Natali Minassian

Society Office Ro Kampman Executive Officer

company “focused on utilizing ion channels and transporters as means to optimize drug uptake through the GI tract or blood brain barrier,” Minassian explains. This was her first experience working with mem- brane proteins, which drew her into the field of biophysics. She became interested in voltage-gated ion channels, and knew that to work in this area, she needed to fine tune her techniques and learn how to determine which questions to ask as a research scientist. In order to gain this skill set and experience, Minassian decided to apply to graduate school. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and worked under the supervision of Diane Papazian . As a graduate student in Papazian’s laboratory, she learned the tools necessary to become an electrophysiology researcher and also gained experience with the bio- physical techniques needed to answer the questions she would pose in her hypotheses going forward. She received her PhD in Biophysics from the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology program at UCLA. Minassian wanted to transition back into industry after receiving her PhD, but the reality of this move proved more difficult than she had anticipated. Even though she had worked in industry prior to receiv- ing her PhD, transitioning back was “the biggest career challenge I have faced so far,” Minassian says. To make matters worse, her job search was taking place in the midst of the US’ recession in 2010. Though she was

Newsletter Alisha Yocum Monika Zakrzewska Production Laura Phelan Profile

Ellen Weiss Public Affairs

The Biophysical Society Newsletter (ISSN 0006-3495) is published twelve times per year, January- December, by the Biophysical Society, 11400 Rockville Pike, Suite 800, Rockville, Maryland 20852. Distributed to USA members and other countries at no cost. Canadian GST No. 898477062. Postmaster: Send address changes to Biophysical Society, 11400 Rockville Pike, Suite 800, Rockville, MD 20852. Copyright © 2014 by the Biophysical Society. Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

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