ACA Election Candidate

Niko Vlahakis: Candidate for YSIG Chair Elect

My name is Niko Vlahakis, and I’m a third year Ph.D. student in Jose Rodriguez’s group at UCLA. My research focuses on developing electron diffraction methods; in particular, I work on open questions regarding the presence of signals reporting on fine structural qualities of a crystal in electron diffraction intensities. Such areas include the sensitivity of electron diffraction measurements to differences in chirality between enantiomers, the resolution of protein-ligand binding interactions using ED, and the ways in which measured diffraction from different sub-regions of the same nanocrystal might significantly differ.  I am also studying how structural information granted by ED might complement information on the same molecules generated from another microcrystallography method: serial crystallography at X-ray free electron lasers. Mentorship has been an integral aspect of my Ph.D. work thus far, as I’ve worked directly with numerous undergraduate and new graduate students and trained them in carrying out crystallography experiments, processing diffraction data, and determining atomic structures; I’ve also served as a teaching assistant for advanced transmission electron microscopes on the UCLA campus, training graduate students, postdocs, and staff scientists on appropriate equipment use and in performing electron diffraction experiments. These experiences in particular have helped me appreciate how essential teaching and performing outreach toward other young scientists are for my own learning, and for the development of my own ideas and research interests. Moving forward, I intend to keep pursuing chances to mentor and exchange ideas with scientists interested in structural biology and structure determination methods, and I think leading the YSIG during this time of exciting growth for the ACA would be an excellent way to do so.