Recommended by: Vijay Pande, Stanford University
Many things contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. So the University of California, Berkeley's Gregory Bowman is using computer simulations and theoretical models to understand all the moving parts that contribute to protein function with the goal of providing new ways to block functions that lead to antibiotic resistance. "If you think of kids' toys, it's the little pieces that are often prone to breaking — little moving pieces — and so I want to find those and try to break them," Bowman says.
Bowman credits his PhD advisor, Stanford's Vijay Pande, with helping him think about protein dynamics and the existence of ensembles of conformations. "We've worked together a lot on developing methods for mapping out the conformational space that proteins explore, enumerating them and how often they transition between different conformations, and that's a really powerful tool going into the understanding of protein function," Bowman says. Eventually, he adds, computer simulations and theoretical models will become increasingly powerful, and more of these types of models will be used to provide insight in helping to guide experiments.
Publication of note
In March 2010, Bowman and Pande published a paper in PNAS on protein folding, in which they found that while protein folding sometimes seems very simple, there's often underlying complexity. "We can really map this out with these computational methods and even start making new predictions that have been found to be true in subsequent experiments," Bowman says.
And the Nobel goes to…
If Bowman were to win the coveted prize, he would want it to be for understanding the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and providing a way to overcome them.