Lukasz A. Joachimiak, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator)

My lab uses experimental and computational approaches to study protein folding and how cellular factors influence this process in vitro and in vivo. Our work aims to elucidate how proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases change conformation to drive disease pathology.







Zhiqiang Hou, Ph.D. (Postdoc)

I received my Ph.D. degree from the National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules in Institute of Biophysics (IBP), Chinese Academy of Science in 2013. Following the graduate work on crystal structure of membrane super-complex photosystem II, I came to University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas as a postdoctoral fellow, and since 2018, as a research scientist. The previous work included a combination of molecular and structural approaches to define the depression mechanism of protein CIPC in circadian clock transcription activity. Now I focus on building both the biochemical and structural tools to understand how the protein tau changes shape into a pathogenic conformation and how proteins called molecular chaperones regulate this process at the Center of Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Southwestern. I will employ multidisciplinary approaches including XL-MS, Cryo-EM, ab initio model building to unravel the mechanism of the shape of pathogenic proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases with direct implications for the development of both diagnostics and therapeutics.


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Bryan Ryder (Graduate Student)

I am originally from Hillsborough, NJ and graduated with a B.S in Biochemistry from Rutgers University-School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. I am a graduate student in the Molecular Biophysics graduate program at UTSW and have been a member of the Joachimiak lab since 2017. Aside from proteins involved directly in neurodegenerative diseases, our lab also investigates molecular chaperones that target these proteins. My project is to understand the structure and mechanism of a human Hsp40 from the B family. This protein has been shown to target Huntingtin, the protein associated with Huntington’s Disease, and possibly other amyloidogenic proteins containing low complexity regions. Understanding the mechanism behind how this chaperone targets other proteins would further our understanding of how cells naturally target misfolded proteins for refolding or degradation. Outside of my work, I enjoy walking nature trails, playing golf, and writing.


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Dailu Chen (Graduate Student)

I am originally from Nanjing, China. I graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Physiology and a minor in Math. Now I am a graduate student in the Molecular Biophysics program. I joined Lukasz’s lab in Feb 2017, because of the fantastic opportunity to do research both wet and dry and the collaborative atmosphere of the CAND. My current project is on the conformational change that drives tau aggregation. When not purifying proteins or writing code, I like to play my piano, dance hip-hop and just try to be cool in general. I have a band called the Nasty Eyebrows.




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Kinga Westphal (Fulbright International Student)

I am a graduate student at University of Gdansk, Poland. Since July 2017, I have been working in Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases as a Visiting Junior Researcher (internship administered by Polish-U.S Fulbright Commission). Currently, I am involved in the investigations of the alpha-synuclein seeding activity and structural determination of the Hsp104:substrate complexes.





Valerie Ann Perez (Joint Graduate Student with the Diamond Lab)

I was born and raised in Laredo, TX. I received my B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University. I am currently a graduate student in the Molecular Biophysics program and am being co-mentored by Drs. Lukasz Joachimiak and Marc Diamond. The collaborative nature of the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases has allowed me to use different techniques and approaches to investigate the roles that different molecular chaperones play in neurodegenerative diseases. I am also interested in developing novel therapeutic and imaging strategies for neurodegenerative diseases. Beyond the lab, I enjoy collecting cute things, making origami sculptures, and trying to keep my plants alive.






Pamela Y Jones (Lab Administrator)

I am from Houston, Texas.  I left home to join the Marine Corps in 1991 right out of High School.  I served seven years and during that time I met my husband of 20+ years, later returning to Texas.  I received my Bachelors in Business Administration at LeTourneau University in 2005 and have been in administration ever since. I have been at UTSW for over 10 years and I joined the Center in 2016.  I believe I am a reliable asset to this steady growing organization and enjoy working with our team. I also enjoy music, movies and basketball when time permits and my family is my number one priority.






Lab Alumni

Aparna Yarram (Research Technician II)

Position now: Medical student


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