Student Profile

Elisabeth Geyer in lab
Elisabeth Geyer

Elisabeth Geyer
Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program

Mentor: Luke Rice, Ph.D.
Hometown: Parma, Ohio
Awards/Fellowships: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, On tenure, National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 Training Grant GM008297, UTSW Molecular Biophysics Department Grant

I spent a good portion of my childhood constantly asking questions, being fascinated with how something was made, or why a process occurred the way it did. Entering college, I knew I wanted to eventually go into something science based, whether that be research in a lab setting or possibly heading off to medical school and becoming a doctor.

I decided to come to UTSW because I not only wanted to attend a top tier graduate school where I knew I would receive a great education, both on and off the bench, but because I wanted to attend a school where I felt like I could be a part of a community. During my interview, I was inspired and excited by all of the research going on in my department of interest and was impressed by how kind and passionate all of the faculty were.

“It was clear to me that the research going on at UTSW was some of the most cutting edge work being done.”

The goal of my thesis project is to dissect the mechanism of a microtubule polymerase, Stu2p, that results in fast cellular microtubule dynamics using a combination of protein engineering, quantitative biochemistry, and in vitro reconstitution monitored by time lapse two color total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy. Having a deep and thorough understanding of microtubule dynamics, and the network of proteins that result in fast microtubule dynamics, will hopefully allow us to one day design and develop more specific cancer cell therapeutics.

What makes the Molecular Biophysics program at UTSW one of the top programs in the country is a rare and unique combination of energetic, enthusiastic faculty who come to work every day passionate about their research, in combination with some of the best resources and equipment that a scientist would need to be successful. On top of our faculty, the graduate students in the Molecular Biophysics program provide a wonderful network of engaging and hardworking young scientists who are passionate about their projects and always willing to lend help wherever it is needed.

Qian Cong in lab
Qian Cong

Qian Cong
Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program
Mentor: Nick V. Grishin, Ph.D.
Hometown: Harbin, China
Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Research Fellowship, Best Poster at Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program 22th Annual Research Symposium, Best Research Presentation at Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program 19th Annual Research Symposium, Best Biophysics Poster Award at Biochemistry Department Annual Retreat

I was always interested in and good at learning and solving problems. In addition, when I was very young, being a scientist was one of the most popular dreams among my friends and classmates. I guess that is the influence we got from the education in school.

“There are many great scientists here and there are so many good labs a student can choose from.”

My thesis project is structure and function analyses of proteins in the context of evolution and the applications to genomes and comparative genomics. The project consists of three parts:

A. Development of tools for protein sequence analysis and application to large-scale studies
B. de novo sequencing, assembly, and analysis of eukaryotic genomes 
C. Comparative genomics analysis of eukaryotic genomes aimed at understanding the correlation between genotype and phenotype, and the mechanisms of speciation

There are many great scientists at UT Southwestern and there are so many good labs a student can choose from. The faculty members are always willing to educate and help the students.


Ho Yee Joyce Fung in lab
Ho Yee Joyce Fung

Ho Yee Joyce Fung
Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program

Mentor: Yuh Min Chook, Ph.D.
Hometown: Hong Kong, China
Croucher Foundation Scholarship, HHMI International Student Research Fellowship

My venture into research started back in high school, when I formed a group with four friends and competed in the Chemistry Olympics in Hong Kong. As I pursued my science degree in the United States, I took a freshman laboratory course called Phage Hunters, which proved to be a career-transforming experience, as it inspired me to further into biological research.

The Molecular Biophysics program at UT Southwestern does not only have great resources that allow us to study complex biological systems with various biophysical methods, but the level of expertise of the faculty members in diverse topics provide students with the best guidance to achieve a successful graduate career.

“I love the collaborative atmosphere of the program, which allows me to approach any faculty member for their advice.”

My research project focuses on understanding CRM1 (chromosome region maintenance 1 protein), the major export factor that transports numerous proteins and RNAs from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. CRM1 has recently gained attention as a promising drug target for cancers, and a specific inhibitor of CRM1 is currently in more than 30 clinical trials for a variety of cancers. I study how CRM1 recognizes diverse signals in its cargoes and the mechanism of CRM1 inhibition by small molecule inhibitors.

I love the collaborative atmosphere of the program, which allows me to approach any faculty member for their advice. In particular, we have access to great core facilities such as the SBL and MBR, in which the faculties have provided me with great support and help throughout my training.