Biophysical Society Newsletter | October 2017





Biophysicist in Profile RAM DIXIT


Officers President Lukas Tamm President-Elect Angela Gronenborn Past-President Suzanne Scarlata Secretary Frances Separovic Treasurer Kalina Hristova Council

“I found science interesting throughout school, but it was my high school science teacher, Ms. Bose , who really got me into biology,” says Ram Dixit , associate professor of biology and faculty fellow of the Center for Engineering Mechanobiology at Washington University in St. Louis. “The instrument that captivated my interest was a microscope, and I was fascinated by the frantic activities that seemingly simple organisms, like microbes displayed under the microscope.” Dixit’s father, an engineer, taught him the importance of science and quantitative thinking. “Even though he was an engineer by training, he had broad scientific interests and helped me cultivate my interest in biology,” he shares. He started his undergraduate degree in microbiology at Ruia College in Mumbai, India, where he had grown up. It was here that Dixit was introduced to research by his professor Ravi Phadke : “I spent a year doing research ‘on the side’ and realized that one could make a living as a researcher!” He then transferred to State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he completed his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry in 1993. Dixit entered Cornell University to pursue his PhD in biology. As a graduate student, he hosted Richard Cyr as a student-invited seminar speaker, which set him on a path toward his current area of specializa- tion. “I was fascinated by his talk about how mechanical forces influence microtubule orientation in cells,” he shares. “His talk got me started on thinking about how nanoscale polymers organize into a rich variety of patterns to produce cell shape and orchestrate cellular processes.” After completing his PhD studies in 2000, Dixit worked as a postdoc- toral fellow in Cyr’s lab at Pennsylvania State University, examining how noncentrosomal plant cortical microtubules organize into well-ordered arrays. “Using GFP technology and live-imaging, I quantified micro- tubule dynamics and behavior and uncovered rules of interactions that

Zev Bryant Jane Clarke Bertrand Garcia-Moreno Teresa Giraldez Ruben Gonzalez, Jr. Ruth Heidelberger Robert Nakamoto Arthur Palmer Gabriela Popescu Marina Ramirez-Alvarado Erin Sheets Joanna Swain

Ram Dixit

Biophysical Journal Jane Dyson Editor-in-Chief

Society Office Ro Kampman Executive Officer

Newsletter Executive Editor Rosalba Kampman Managing Editor Beth Staehle Contributing Writers and Department Editors Dorothy Chaconas Daniel McNulty Laura Phelan Raelle Reid

“ As scientists, we are not trained to manage people and finances, yet this is precisely what this job demands most. ”

lead to their self-organization using computer modeling,” he explains. From there, he went to University of Pennsylvania for a second postdoc position with Erika Holzbaur . “I used single-molecule biophysics in collaboration with Yale Goldman to study how kinesin and dynein respond to obstacles in their path and

Caitlin Simpson Elizabeth Vuong Ellen Weiss Production Ray Wolfe Catie Curry

to elucidate the mechanism for plus-end tracking of human EB1 and CLIP170 proteins,” he says. Goldman fondly recalls working with Dixit during that time, “Ram was always very calm and exuded competence. His experiments were successful virtually 100 percent of the time, because he was so careful. Erika said of one of his data video stacks from our 2008 Science paper, ‘That’s going to win an Academy Award!’” Currently,

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