Thomas Bowden

Graduate Research Prize Winners 2008

The structure of the Nipah/Hendra virus attachment glycoprotein (HNV-G, coloured as a rainbow with the N terminus in blue and the C terminus in red) interacting with its ligand ephrin-B2 (EFNB2, in gray). The pink sticks are N-acetylclucosamine moieties observed as stubs at the N-linked glycosylation sites in the structure

The structure of the Nipah/Hendra virus attachment glycoprotein (HNV-G, coloured as a rainbow with the N terminus in blue and the C terminus in red) interacting with its ligand ephrin-B2 (EFNB2, in gray). The pink sticks are N-acetylglucosamine moieties observed as stubs at the N-linked glycosylation sites in the structure

I completed my Masters in Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, in June 2005 after growing up in the city of Tacoma, in the state of Washington, USA. I spent the penultimate year of this five-year degree on an external research placement at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California in the structural biology laboratory of Professor Ian Wilson FRS. This research project involved the investigation of antigen presentation to T-Cell receptors by CD1 cell-surface glycoproteins. In my final year, I continued protein crystallographic studies at St Andrews in the laboratory of Professor James Naismith. These two experiences were invaluable and led me to a deep appreciation of the use of x-ray crystallography to study protein function.

I was attracted to study for a DPhil at the University of Oxford because of its reputation in the field of structural biology; particularly its landmark achievements in virology and cell-surface recognition. I enrolled in the Wellcome Trust Structural Biology Programme in the Nuffield Department of Medicine in October 2005. What particularly impressed me about the course was the incorporation of an initial taught segment, which included training in a variety of biophysical techniques. These teaching modules complemented the rigorous research curriculum extremely well.

I am supervised by Professors David Stuart FRS and Yvonne Jones in the Division of Structural Biology at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. My research interests focus on the use structural biology to understand extracellular signalling events mediated by cell surface glycoproteins and how viruses can utilize these glycoproteins to gain cell entry. Recent successes have included the identification of the molecular basis of attachment by a newly emerging and highly pathogenic class of paramyxoviruses to their human host. Infrastructure in our group has been fundamental to my ability to study these systems and includes the development of a mammalian cell-line expression system, which allows high level and homogeneous expression of recombinant glycoproteins suitable for x-ray crystallography.

In addition to membership of the department, I am also a member of The Queen's College, which provides me with ample opportunity to socialize with people from different academic disciplines and participate in a variety of sports.

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