My current research interests include crystallographic studies of proteins involved in polynucleotide synthesis for negative strand RNA viruses. These efforts have included: structure determination of the nucleocapsid of VSV encapsidated with various sequences of RNA, as well as complexes of the nucleocapsid with the polymerase co-factor, P.
I was introduced to scientific work as an under-graduate researcher where I studied natural products chemistry. Here, I isolated naturally occurring compounds from plant material in search of potential therapeutic agents. Compounds that were active against various bacteria as well as compounds that were cytotoxic to cancer cell lines were discovered during this research period. Upon beginning my graduate career in the laboratory of Dr. Ming Luo, I began to study viruses with an emphasis in virus structure. This work has continued since I took my faculty position at UAB. Specifically, I have been involved with studying the structure of negative strand RNA viruses. Our work with the nucleocapsid of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) has been instrumental in showing how RNA is encapsidated and sequestered in the nucleocapsid as well as how the nucleocapsid is assembled. In addition, we have solved crystal structures of the VSV phosphoprotein P showing how P multimerizes. We have continued this research solving the structure of N with bound P protein. This has demonstrated how P interacts with the nucleocapsid and aided in formulating hypotheses about how the viral polymerase may be delivered to the active template for transcription and replication. The active template for both of these processes is the N protein with the encapsidated genome. Our research to date has contributed greatly to the field of structural virology. It has also aided in developing new experiments that continue within our lab.