Success Story

Student Name: Nicolas Pabon
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University

Nicolas Pabon joined the Training and Experimentation in Computational Biology (TECBio) REU program at the University of Pittsburgh in the summer of 2012. Nick, who was a rising senior majoring in physics at Carnegie Mellon University worked with Dr. Carlos Camacho studying the mechanics of RNA transcription by RNA Polymerase II using molecular dynamics simulations. This initial exposure to computational biology research led to Nick’s matriculation in the Joint Carnegie Mellon—University of Pittsburgh PhD Program in Computational Biology (CPCB) for his graduate studies. As a PhD candidate, Nick has built on his initial protein dynamics work to examine the role that flexibility in protein structure affects protein interactions in the context of induced fit, assembly of multi-domain proteins, and allosteric regulation. In a related project, he is also building frameworks for use in virtual drug screening and rational drug design. Nick’s work was selected for a presentation at the 2014 Gordon Research Conference on Biopolymers and was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship the same year. Beyond his research, Nick has also made contributions to the 2015 TECBio REU program. He organized and ran the weekly journal club for the program and helped students prepare for their presentations. His previous experience with this program gave him a unique perspective, which he was able to share with the TECBio students and help them succeed in the program. Part of his advice for the REU students was to encourage them to maintain a balanced lifestyle as they pursue their professional goals. For Nick, this includes an active practice and teaching of yoga. Moving forward, in the Fall 2015 semester, Nick will continue his work on rational drug design at the University of Groningen with Dr. Alexander Dömling. He plans on both furthering his computational studies to predict drugs that inhibit protein-protein interactions and entering new territories which will have him synthesizing and testing the effectiveness of these compounds. We wish Nick all the best in his future pursuits!