PhD student named a Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow

Defne Gorgun Ozgulbas will collaborate with Professors Tajkhorshid and Wu on her antibody research.

Congratulations to Defne Gorgun Ozgulbas who was recently selected as a Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow.

Gorgun Ozgulbas is a PhD student in the Center for Biophysics and Quantitative Biology and expects to graduate in August 2023. She earned her BS in biomedical engineering from TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara, Turkey.

Her research is focused on understanding how antibodies bind to and block contagious respiratory illnesses like the flu from entering human cells. Typically, viruses cross into host cells with the help of a protein functioning like a footbridge, attaching to the host cell on one side and the viral membrane on the other.

A protein called hemagglutinin, or HA, performs this connecting role for the influenza virus. Anti-HA antibodies can interrupt the process by preventing a key conformational change — or a change in shape — that the HA protein undergoes to function as a bridge. Without that conformational change, infection is not possible.

Gorgun Ozgulbas will use advanced computer modeling and molecular dynamics simulations to examine how anti-HA antibodies interact with the viral membrane. Ultimately, her work will help guide the development of influenza treatments.

She will collaborate with Emad Tajkhorshid, a professor of biochemistry; and Nicholas C. Wu, an assistant professor of biochemistry.

Gorgun Ozgulbas is one of seven fellows selected for 2022. The Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows Program offers University of Illinois graduate students at the MA, MS, or PhD level the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research at the institute. The program is supported by funding from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

Read more about the award recipients.

May 04, 2022 All News