Biophysical Society Bulletin | January 2022

Biophysicist in Profile

puting, and we started a collaboration with Amitabh Vashney of University of Maryland Department of Computer Science to see whether it would be feasible to perform MD simulations in GPUs, and the answer turned out to be yes.” Cho is now at Wake Forest University, a primarily undergrad- uate institution with graduate programs. He has a unique joint appointment in the Departments of Physics and Com- puter Science. He is an associate professor and serves as the Graduate Director of the Computer Science Department’s MS degree program. “My research group developed coarse-grained MD simulation software that was optimized for the GPU using new parallel algorithms, and we applied it to protein-nanoparticle as- sembly, a first in the field. We have also studied tRNA folding mechanisms that are parallel and sometimes involve nonpro- ductive intermediate states,” he explains. “In a recent paper, we modeled DNA and RNA G-quadruplexes that are import- ant for ribosome assembly, and we believe that they could be important anticancer targets.” “I think the best advice I can give to those just starting their careers is to actively search out and attend free food events. This sounds like a joke—and it is, sort of—but it turned out to be one of my most valuable scientific strategies,” he shares. “Most free food events tend to be well organized (which is why they can afford the free food in the first place). Also, great scientists of all stripes cannot easily pass up free food, so it is a good opportunity to interact with your colleagues. Finally, food seems to be one of the few things in the world that binds people of so many different backgrounds together. While we may not all eat the same types of food, all of us eat, and everyone is happy to share a meal with others. There’s never a better time to talk about science.”

istry class,” he explains. “Not everyone knows that she holds a very high bar for teaching because of her impressive research and service accomplishments, and I’m glad that I was able to learn how to teach from her example.” After his graduate studies, he started looking into postdoc- toral opportunities. “When it came time to move on, I was looking at potential postdoctoral advisors, and I remember noticing that Dave Thirumalai at University of Maryland, Col- lege Park was not only doing great work on RNA folding (in addition to protein folding and aggregation, polymer physics, glass transitions, etc.), he had an amazing alumni list of for- mer postdocs and graduate students who became professors. I emailed him, he said yes, and my wife and I were back to the East Coast,” Cho says. “One of the secrets to Dave’s success was the fact that he often took his graduate students and postdocs to lunch when he was in town. Much of that time was also just shooting the breeze about what was going on in our lives or fierce but friendly political debates. After lunch is when the science really started in earnest. I did not realize it at the time, but it is important to build these soft skills and encourage comradery in a research group. It became much easier to ask group members for help or offer it when appro- priate.” While he was in Thirumalai’s lab, they wrote “several great papers including a coarse-grained MD simulation of RNA pseudoknot folding where we predicted the folding rate, and it was later confirmed by experiment. We collaborated with Eda Koculi and Sarah Woodson of Johns Hopkins University to describe an RNA that forms secondary and tertiary structure concurrently, unlike most RNA that form secondary structure before tertiary structures,” he says. “We also wrote a paper on TMAO interactions with proteins in collaboration with John Straub , Boston University. This was also the time when GPUs started to become very popular for high-performance com-

BPS Announces New Student Chapters The Biophysical Society is proud to welcome six new chapters into the Student Chapter community! These students will join 40 established chapters around the world in growing the next generation of biophysicists: • Uganda Student Chapter • Milano Student Chapter • Cedarville University Interested in becoming a member of your local student chapter? Visit to find the chap- ter closest to you. Are you a mentor or student interested in growing biophysics education and career opportunities at your institution? If the an- swer is yes, the next call for Student Chapters will open March 15, 2022. Visit to learn more. • Cornell University • University of California, Los Angeles • University of Chile

January 2022



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