- Scholarship in 2017 at University of Oxford
The Croucher Foundation interviewed Alex in June 2020. See article here.
Alex is currently reading his joint DPhil & PhD degrees at the University of Oxford, working with Prof. Mark Sansom, and Scripps Research (California) working with Prof. Andrew Ward. Alex receives his major funding from the prestigious Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship, with additional support from the Croucher Foundation. He graduated with a MSc ETH in Biology (Structural Biology & Biophysics) from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zürich). Prior to that, he read a BSc in Biochemistry at University College London with First Class Honours (Dean's List) and was the top of the class.
Alex has developed a strong interest in Structural Biology & Biophysics since his final year of undergraduate. He carried out his Undergraduate Research Project at Prof. Carolyn Moores' lab at Birkbeck, University of London investigating a microtubule-interacting protein. Alex also worked on other microtubule cytoskeleton projects during summer vacations, with Dr Thomas Surrey's group at Cancer Research UK London (now The Francis Crick Institute) and with Dr Etsuko Muto's group at RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Tokyo.
For his Master's Thesis, Alex joined Prof Martin Pilhofer's lab at ETH Zürich where he gained further insights to cryo-electron microscopy – a rapidly advancing Structural Biology technique that he has consuming passion for. In brief, cryo-EM permits the determination of large protein assemblies in high (atomic) resolution. This sheds light on how proteins and drugs interact at the molecular level, for instance.
Alex enjoys blind wine tasting in his free time. Concurrent to his doctoral study, Alex is pursuing the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 4 Diploma in Wines. In 2020, he was an Oxford team member at the 67th Oxford & Cambridge Blind Wine-Tasting Competition. He is also a Certified Sake Sommelier accredited by the Sake Service Institute (SSI) in Japan, and a Certified Sherry Wine Specialist with the Wine Scholars Guild.
Alex is the Senior Editor (Layout) of Phenotype Journal, a student/postdoc-led non-profit bioscience journal currently distributed in Oxford and Berlin. At Scripps Research, Alex is involved in student advocacy work with the Graduate Student Council, and the Scientific Diversity Association.
Alex's joint research project at Oxford and Scripps investigates the structure, lipid interactions, and mechanism of mechanically activated ion channels and other sensory ion channels. The aim is to use molecular modelling and simulation to aid and extend the interpretation and analysis of intermediate resolution structures determined by cryo-electron microscopy. A particular focus is on characterising the nature of lipid interactions with the channel in order to better understand the mechanism of mechanical coupling between the channel and the surrounding lipid bilayer. This will help to define these channels as possible pharmaceutical targets. The project involves molecular dynamics simulations, statistical and thermodynamic analysis of simulation data, and analysis and refinement of cryo-electron microscopy derived structures.
- Jojoa-Cruz S, Saotome K, Tsui CCA, Lee WH, Sansom MSP, Murthy SE, Patapoutian A, Ward AB. Structural insights into the Venus flytrap mechanosensitive ion channel Flycatcher1. Nature Communications 13, 850 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28511-5.
- Saotome K, Teng B*, Tsui CCA*, Lee WH, Tu YH, Sansom MSP, Liman ER, Ward AB. Structures of the Otopetrin proton channels Otop1 and Otop3. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 26, 518–525 (2019). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41594-019-0235-9; Featured on Issue Cover.
- Jojoa-Cruz S, Saotome K, Murthy SE, Tsui CCA, Sansom MSP, Patapoutian A, Ward AB. Cryo-EM structure of the mechanically activated ion channel OSCA1.2. eLife 7, e41845 (2018). https://elifesciences.org/articles/41845.
News Articles Related to Research Work:
Scripps Research scientists reveal exceptional structural detail of novel protein family involved in sour taste reception and prevalent in digestive and immune systems – Scripps Research
Biologist gets a taste for novel protein research – Croucher Foundation
- Scientists find mysterious family of proteins are cellular pressure sensors – Scripps Research
Deciphering the role of mechanosensitive proteins – Croucher Foundation