What initially attracted you to biophysics?
I became interested in protein engineering back in high school when taking biology and chemistry classes. I quickly became aware of the significant challenges in this fi eld, which sparked my desire to study biophysics.
What specific areas are you studying?
I study how a protein’s structure and function relates to its physiological effects.
What is your current research project?
My research project is looking at a novel virulence factor secreted by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, called Cif, and how the enzyme mechanism of this protein impacts human airway epithelial cells.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
I plan to [do a] postdoc and continue my training in protein structure and function, with the ultimate dream of someday starting my own lab
at a university.
What do you see as the biggest challenge as a student of biophysics?
For me, it’s sometimes difficult to remain focused on a narrow range of questions. I, or often my PI, occasionally need to restrain myself from
trying to crystallize every protein I can get my hands on.
Why did you join the Biophysical Society?
I joined for the professional development opportunities.
When you’re not studying biophysics, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love hiking and brewing. When I’m not cooking up a batch of homebrew beer, I spend as much of my free time as I can in the nearby White Mountains.
Dean Madden, Bahl’s PI, says:
“Chris is a great student. He has a deep curiosity about how molecules work and is a natural in the lab. When he joined the group, we were trying to fi gure out how Pseudomonas aeruginosa—an opportunistic pathogen—sabotages ABC transporter proteins required for airway defenses. The culprit had been identifi ed as the CFTR inhibitory factor Cif. It appeared to be an alpha/beta hydrolase, and cell biological studies showed that it was taken up by epithelial cells. However, it was unclear what its exact enzyme activity was or whether it contributed to pathogenesis. Shortly after joining the lab, Chris determined the structure of Cif and analyzed its enzymatic profi le. He confirmed that Cif is an epoxide hydrolase (EH), even though it lacks a number of conserved features of the EH family. Building on this observation, he identified a new subclass of epoxide hydrolases, with members found in other pathogens as well. He also designed a series of active-site mutants that revealed the catalytic mechanism.”
June 2011 Table of Contents