Danielle attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her undergraduate degree and completed her honors thesis in the lab of Francisco Pelegri. This experience sparked Danielle’s fascination with the microscopic world as she developed a system to visualize microtubule dynamics in zebrafish embryos and became mesmerized by the elegant coordination between filamentous rearrangements and cell cycle progression. After graduation, Danielle continued to work in the Pelegri lab as a technician, where she further refined her skills in microscopy and genetics to characterize the localization patterns of the dorsal-axis determinant, glutamate receptor interacting protein 2a.
After spending her adolescence and early adulthood braving frigid Wisconsin winters, Danielle moved to sunny San Diego, California in 2013 to start her graduate work in The Scripps Research Graduate Program in the lab of Gabe Lander. During the apex of cryo-electron microscopy’s “resolution revolution”, Danielle found herself uniquely positioned as one of the few researchers at Scripps more interested in the complex interplay between macromolecules and their surrounding cellular environment than chasing atomic-level details of purified proteins. Over the next four years, Danielle enthusiastically seized the opportunity to establish a cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) and subtomogram averaging pipeline within the institute, and utilized these techniques to solve the first three-dimensional structure of the large, flexible, multi-subunit cytoplasmic dynein complex bound to microtubules.
In 2018, Danielle received the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award, completed her PhD, and accepted an independent research position in the Scripps Fellows program. To further enrich her technical capabilities, Danielle completed a short post-doctoral position at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the lab of Grant Jensen to train on cutting-edge instrumentation in the exciting and emerging field of in situ structural biology before applying these advanced methodologies to her own independent research. Danielle returned to Scripps Research in 2019 to start her research lab as faculty in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology. In addition to exciting pursuits in the lab, Danielle is co-director of the Scripps Graduate Cell Biology course, a low-key yogi, a lifelong Deadhead, and a Michael Scott aficionado.
Ben earned his PhD in James Fraser’s lab at UCSF, where he developed software tools for data analysis and validation in structural biology, as well as experimentally investigating the mechanisms by which mammalian chitinases processively hydrolyze the prevalent polysaccharide chitin. Prior to that, as an undergraduate in Elizabeth Sattely’s lab at Stanford University, he investigated bacterial degradation of the polymer lignin. Before joining the Grotjahn lab, he worked at Genentech, where he developed software tools to automate processing of data from single particle cryo-EM.
Ben is interested in understanding how protein structure and function is impacted by cellular contexts. His work in the lab focuses on using in situ cryoelectron tomography to determine both structure and cellular localization in parallel, and to understand how protein structure changes in different cellular environments. He is particularly interested the regulation and function of proteins that polymerize in cells.
Outside of research, he is obsessed with finding the perfect cup of coffee, a quest that has included learning to roast his own coffee beans.
Ashim received his integrated Masters-PhD degree from Prof. Roop Mallik’s lab at TIFR, Mumbai, India. During his PhD., he worked on reconstituting organelle transport in vitro and developing optical trap-based force spectroscopy tools to measure mechanical forces on single organelles. This sparked an early interest in trying to understand the physical basis of biological processes. This led to pursuing a postdoc position in Prof. Sivaraj Sivaramakrishnan’s lab at University of Minnesota where he developed and used single-molecule and protein-engineering methods to investigate the structure-function mechanisms of protein complexes involved in cargo transport. In the Grotjahn lab, Ashim is combining his skills in protein-engineering and reconstitution biology to develop methods to overcome the “electron-density” barrier in cryo-electron tomography for structural mapping of small protein complexes involved in mitochondrial fission.
Outside of lab, Ashim likes to spend his time experimenting with cooking, reading and bothering anyone who would care to listen about Japanese “kaiju” movies.
Jessica attended Duquesne University for her undergraduate degree and completed her honors thesis the Mihailescu lab, where she studied the interactions of short RNAs that formed G quadruplexes and the Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein. Her work in nucleic acid:protein interactions and utilizing various biophysical characterization techniques lead her to Brandon Ruotolo’s lab at the University of Michigan, where she developed a native mass spectrometry technique to distinguish between binding modes of small molecules and peptides to their target proteins.
Jessica is currently a postdoc in the Williamson Lab at Scripps, where she is interested in understanding how ribosomes assemble. The Williamson Lab began collaborating with the Grotjahn Lab in the summer of 2019 to understand how ribosomes assembly using in situ cryo-electron tomography to visualize where ribosomes assemble and what the ribosome intermediates look like during the process of ribosome assembly in the cell.
Outside of the lab, Jessica loves to bake and to cook, and you can often find her in local restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries.
Michaela received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from the University of California, San Diego. She conducted her undergraduate and post-baccalaureate research at the Salk Institute in the lab of Dmitry Lyumkis. In the lab, she utilized biochemical and single particle cryogenic electron microscopy techniques to better understand the process of gamma retroviral integration.
Michaela joined the Grotjahn Lab at the Scripps Research Institute for her PhD, where she is interested in using the cellular cryogenic electron tomography to investigate the morphological changes in mitochondria in response to cellular stress.
Outside of lab, Michaela is a classically trained double bassist, an avid reader, a weekend hiker, and a foodie.
Keeps on trucking.