Student Spotlight

What initially attracted you to biophysics?

I temporarily left science after my undergraduate degree and got a law degree and worked in patent law for a while. Biophysics actually attracted me to come back into science. I chose it because I was particularly enchanted by all aspects of the protein folding problem.

What specific areas are you studying?

I seek to understand the thermodynamics and other fundamentals of membrane protein folding and how proteins interact with lipid bilayers.

What is your current research project?

We were able to use a transmembrane protein that can spontaneously fold into lipid bilayers to directly measure a new hydrophobicity scale
of water-to-bilayer transfer free energies of the amino acid side chains.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

I am keen on teaching and managing a research lab at a primarily undergraduate institution. For my research element, I would certainly like to
stay with membrane protein thermodynamics.

What do you see as the biggest challenge as a student of biophysics?

I hear a lot of gloomy predictions about everdiminishing certainties in the scientific job market, so my biggest challenge has been to justify the commitment of several years of my youth to training in a fi eld that may be stalling.

Why did you join the Biophysical Society?

The Society’s Annual Meeting is a prize of membership for many students, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend three during my graduate school tenure. But another aspect of the Society I follow is its policy and legislative actions. I still have a fondness for those issues from my days in
the legal profession, and I am also very interested in the civics of being a scientist.

When you’re not studying biophysics, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I steal away to mountain trails for backpacking and checking off peak-bagging lists.

Karen Fleming, Moon’s PI, Says:

“Preston is an example of a highly thoughtful and self-motivated scientist. He really drove the success of his thesis project by very careful experiments and by really listening to what the data were telling him instead of trying to fi t his results into a predetermined model. He is also not afraid of adversity, and his success, I think, comes from his ability to embrace the challenges in the data rather than run from them. He reads the literature widely and is an independent thinker about other studies. I expect to see great things from him in the future.”

July 2011 Table of Contents