AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. John Tesmer, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named a 2002 Cottrell Scholar, one of 14 people in the nation — and the second from the university — to receive the honor.
Michael J. Krische, assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences, was announced last week as a 2002 Cottrell Scholar.
Cottrell Scholar awards fund original research with potential for undergraduate participation. Awards are made to U.S. and Canadian universities to further the teaching and research of junior faculty members in Ph.D.-granting universities across the fields of astronomy, chemistry and physics.
Applicants must be in the third calendar year of their first tenure-track position. Awards are for $75,000, which can be used at the discretion of the awardees.
Tesmer’s laboratory uses X-ray crystallography to study how G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) transmit signals across the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells, and how these signals subsequently are propagated within the cell. These receptors are responsible for, among other things, the sensations of sight and smell, and are intimately involved in the regulation of blood pressure and heart rate. Crystallography allows one to determine atomic-resolution structures of macromolecules, which can help explain their function and can sometimes lead to the design of therapeutic drugs.
“We study GPCR signal transduction in several areas,” Tesmer said. “One of our projects is to understand the structure and function of GPCR kinase 2 (GRK2). GRK2 is an enzyme that catalyzes the desensitization of GPCRs, an adaptive process by which the receptors become unresponsive to incoming signals. Perhaps due to its role in regulating the contractility of the heart, unusually high levels of GRK2 have been implicated in the progression of congestive heart failure. Therefore, in addition to helping us understand how GRK2 works, we hope its atomic structure will lead to inhibitors that could be used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.”
Undergraduate researchers constitute a large part of Tesmer’s laboratory, he said. “The Cottrell Scholar award will not only help us pursue high-impact research, but also allow us to be a little more creative in how we train our young scientists.”