Zalatan Promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure; Chatterjee and Stoll Promoted to Professor
The Department of Chemistry congratulates Jesse Zalatan, Champak Chatterjee, and Stefan Stoll on their promotions, effective September 16, 2021. Assistant Professor Zalatan was promoted to associate professor with tenure. Associate Professors Chatterjee and Stoll were promoted to professor.
Prof. Jesse Zalatan
The Zalatan research group seeks to understand how biochemical networks organize specific reactions in space and time with a focus on regulatory mechanisms in cell signaling and gene expression. They aim to develop biochemical model systems to understand specificity in cell signaling networks, engineer bacterial gene expression to redirect metabolic flux towards useful biosynthetic products, and develop tools to study regulatory principles in eukaryotic genomes. Their work is rooted in a molecular understanding of biological systems and uses a wide range of approaches, including biochemistry, enzymology, and synthetic biology. Projects in the Zalatan group are unified by the broader goal of understanding how biological networks make decisions. Both the kinases in cell signaling networks and the transcriptional effectors that regulate genes are frequently repurposed for distinct functions in different contexts. A molecular-level understanding of how their activities are regulated will help researchers understand the mechanistic features that enable precise spatial and temporal control over biochemical reactions, and provide new strategies to engineer cellular functions.
Prof. Champak Chatterjee
An organic chemist specializing in synthetic protein chemistry and the physicochemical characterization of large protein assemblies, Professor Champak Chatterjee is interested in understanding how our genes are controlled by DNA-binding proteins and their modified forms in cells. By identifying specific amino acid modifications in nuclear proteins that can switch essential genes on or off, Chatterjee seeks new avenues to halt the uncontrolled growth of cancers. An essential part of the Chatterjee group’s approach to understanding gene regulation is the application of cutting-edge techniques from protein chemistry and molecular biology. This amalgamation of chemistry and biology has resulted in a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms governing gene regulation and enabled the design of novel protein-based probes of biochemical pathways implicated in disease. The Chatterjee group has applied their interdisciplinary approaches to develop highly efficient reactions for site-specific protein modification by the ubiquitin family of proteins, to uncover the mechanistic roles for histone sumoylation in gene silencing, and to understand how amino acid modifications in the master gene regulator and tumor suppressor protein p53 control its ability to turn on target genes. Trainees in the group have collaborated and published with research groups in UW Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Genome Sciences, and Pharmacology and their success has been recognized by grants from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
Professor Stefan Stoll
Associate Professor Stefan Stoll is a physical chemist working at the cutting edge of magnetic resonance developments, with a focus on electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy (also called electron spin resonance or ESR spectroscopy). EPR is a spectroscopic method providing information on the structure and dynamics of paramagnetic systems, i.e. molecules with unpaired electrons. The concept of EPR is similar to that of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), but in EPR electron spins are observed rather than nuclear spins.
Stoll’s research activities can be categorized into several principal areas. The first research area concerns the development of novel EPR methods such as double electron–electron resonance (DEER) spectroscopy, an EPR technique that serves as a nanometer-scale ruler for measuring protein conformations. Stoll’s recent research activities have focused on developing new theoretical and computational tools for data analysis and instrument development for DEER. His innovations have advanced the rigor and reproducibility of DEER data. Stoll continues to be an international leader in theoretical and computational EPR spectroscopy, in large part due to his ongoing innovations with the EasySpin, a scientific software package for EPR spectra simulation and data analysis. Freely available to the global research community, EasySpin incorporates many theoretical and algorithmic advances in spin physics developed by Stoll to extend the depth and breadth of experimental EPR data that can be analyzed quantitatively. EasySpin has enabled a vast range of work from materials science to biomedical research, and his group is continually advancing the software to expand upon its capabilities. EasySpin has become the global standard for magnetic resonance simulations due to Stoll’s ingenuity and expertise as a theorist. Based on his recent work, Stoll has created DEERLab, an open-source software package for the analysis of DEER data. DEERLab is poised to become an essential tool for DEER in the same way that EasySpin has for EPR.
Stoll’s second research area focuses on the application of EPR and DEER to understand how structure and dynamics dictate the function of proteins and enzymes. In collaboration with William Zagotta (UW Physiology & Biophysics) and others, he studies the structural basis of allosteric regulation in ion channels, combining DEER spectroscopy with insights from other non-crystallographic structural techniques to advance our insight into how proteins function. Stoll has used DEER to quantify how protein conformational changes in a physiologically relevant ion channel, HCN (crucial to regulating heartbeat) are induced by the binding of a secondary messenger molecule.
Recently, Stoll has expanded his research into the field of quantum science. His group is working on understanding the dynamics of molecular spin qubits, which are molecules that can be used for quantum sensing and information processing. One main challenge in this field is to develop qubits with sufficiently long coherence lifetimes. Stoll is investigating the factors that underlie the coherence of qubits. His group is also part of a large NSF-funded project that aims at developing a high-throughput proteomics platform that relies on quantum sensing with a diamond platform in combination with spin labels to detect both abundant and rare human proteins simultaneously.