Caltech WAVE Fellow

Congratulations to Gerardo Perez-Goncalvez, an undergraduate researcher in the Pielak Group, who has been accepted into Caltech's WAVE Fellows program. This program aims to foster diversity by increasing the participation of underrepresented students in science and engineering PhD programs and making Caltech's programs more visible and accessible to students not traditionally exposed to the institution. It will be a fantastic way for Gerardo to increase his research experience, build his academic and professional network, and help him prepare for his continued academic path. The program will pay a weekly stipend of $600 for the ten week fellowship, and will also provide funds for travel.

Gerardo's mentor this summer will be Dr. Doug Rees, James Heath, Roscoe Gilkey Dickinson Professor of Chemistry, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Dean of Graduate Studies. Dr. Rees is a structural biologist who works on structural bioenergetics. His group studies proteins that participate in energy transduction pathways and studies them using crystallographic and functional approaches.

One of his major research sub-groups focuses on the study of the nitrogenase enzyme, which catalyze the reduction of diatomic nitrogen, N2, to ammonia, NH3, which makes it a protein central to nitrogen fixation in soil. This is an enzyme which is interesting in that it has a iron-molybdenum cofactor, FeMoco, at the active site, which is very uncommon in biology.

Gerardo will be working on a project related to nitrogenase, where he will be looking at a nitrogenase iron subunit of the nitrogenase enzyme. This subunit is the only electron donor that can effectively support N2 reduction at the active site of the nitrogenase, making it very important to enzyme function. Specifically, he will be looking at the effects of ATP on the conformation of this nitrogenase iron subunit. This project will allow Gerardo to apply his knowledge of biochemistry, but will also offer the learning new techniques as well.