Postdoc Spotlight

Benjamin (Ben) L. Prosser
University of Maryland School of Medicine,
Dept. of Physiology
Lederer Lab, Center for Biomedical Engineering
and Technology



Q: What field is your PhD in?

I received my PhD in molecular medicine in 2009 in the lab of Martin Schneider. My project combined ultra-high speed (μs) confocal microscopy, patch-clamp electrophysiology, and whole muscle mechanical measurements to study the effect of two small Ca2+ binding proteins, calmodulin and S100A1, on muscle EC coupling and force generation.

Q: What initially attracted you to the field?

As a bit of a health and fitness nut, I’ve always been drawn to biomechanics and human performance, so muscle research seemed like the way to go. When I met Schneider, the head of a long-standing training program in muscle biology at Maryland, I knew it would be a good fit. My work moved to a smaller scale than I originally anticipated, but I was quickly hooked on the intricacies of electrophysiology.

Q: What skills and experiences have you gained/do you hope to gain from your postdoc position?

While I’ve certainly developed technical skills in imaging, mechanics, and cell biology, I think the intangibles I’ve absorbed are more valuable. Jonathan Lederer is an extremely innovative scientist, with no limit of creative and often DIY solutions to whatever challenges arise. This forward thinking, high energy, never-saydie attitude is contagious and drives scientific breakthroughs, so I hope I’ve absorbed my fair share.

Q: What is your current research project?

When I began in the lab, I was tasked with developing new methods to study single cell mechanics in heart and skeletal muscle. My colleagues and I developed a biological “glue” to attach cells to mechanical apparatus. We combined this with imaging and electrophysiology to look at the effect of cell stretch on intracellular signaling pathways. We identified that stretching a heart cell, as occurs during diastolic filling, triggers a burst of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that regulate calcium signaling. I now study how this mechanotransduction pathway, termed X-ROS signaling, regulates physiologic function in healthy hearts, but contributes to arrhythmia and pathologic signaling in disease.

Q: What do you hope the next step in your career path will be?

Tenure-track assistant professor at a premier research institute of course! With loads of funding, great people, fruitful collaborations and high profile, impactful findings. Shoot for the moon, right?

Q: Why did you join the Biophysical Society?

The Annual Meeting was in my hometown of Baltimore my first year of graduate school. I joined the Society, haven’t missed a meeting since, and it’s always one of the most impactful conferences I attend each year.

Q: If you were not a biophysicist, what would you be?

Ah, that one is easy. I would likely pursue some nutritional certification and run a facility (CrossFit style) that provides fitness programs as well as nutritional advice based on the latest research. I’m still a scientist at heart, after all.

W. Jonathan Lederer, Prosser’s PI says:

Ben is one of those postdocs whose intellectual gifts and experimental creativity is only surpassed by his enthusiasm and personal integrity. He is a delight to have in the lab. The project that Ben works on had the potential to be a bust. But Ben made it work, creating MioTAK in the process that we have patented. That was in his first year as a postdoc! His potential is unlimited. His whole attitude is infectious. He helps everyone in the lab work smarter.

December 2012 Table of Contents