I am originally from Atlanta, GA, and did my undergraduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where I majored in Chemistry and French. My career began in the lab of Arthur E. Johnson at Texas A&M University in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. There, using a novel in vitro approach incorporating a labeled lysyl-tRNA into a growing nascent polypeptide, we discovered a seminal understanding that the pore through which all membrane proteins pass plays an active role in membrane protein biogenesis. This work was followed by a study that was the first demonstration that transmembrane regions begin to form within the tunnel of the ribosome.
For my post-doctoral work, I moved to Washington, DC, to work at the National Institutes of Health (USA). We answered a long-standing question in the field of immunology about what path the MHC II molecules take to reach the antigen-containing compartments. My work in membrane protein trafficking led me to receive a fellowship from the Irving Institute. However, I was offered a position as a staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). I decided to join her lab to broaden my training. At NCI, I started working on G-protein coupled receptors and received an award from the director of NCI.
In 2009, I obtained an independent position via a career transition award (Ramon y Cajal fellowship) from the Spanish government. As part of the section on Molecular Neuro-Biology, I started my own lab and studied the heterodimerization process between families of GPCRs, a phenomenon discovered in the last decade. My lab was one of the first labs to implement a biochemical fingerprint to identify GPCR oligomers in tissue. We were also one of the first labs to start using the proximity ligation assay in cells and tissue to identify and later quantify GPCR oligomer complexes. We provided detailed architectural information about these complexes using energy transfer and fluorescence complementation approaches. In addition to identifying complexes in vivo, we also developed the use of disrupting peptides for these complexes to interrogate their actual function. These peptides are superior to using knock-out animals as they maintain the individual functional receptors while ablating the complexes.
Before joining the University of Liverpool in September 2023, I was deputy dean of global engagement at Queen Mary University of London, Faculty of Medicine and Denstistry and ran successful research programs focused on Drug Discovery including helping start the first PhD training programme on AI and drug discovery in the UK. Prior to that I have worked at the University of East Anglia, and subsequently at the University of Surrey where we obtained approval for the first new Vet School in the UK.