General Info

2013 EAS New Faculty Award in NMR Spectroscopy

Dr. Patrick van der Wel
Dr. Patrick van der Wel

Patrick van der Wel is an assistant professor in the Department of Structural Biology of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and his PhD degree in Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville.  He then pursued his postdoctoral research in the lab of Professor Robert Griffin at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before joining the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh in 2008.

Dr. van der Wel’s scientific interests focus on the development and application of solid-state NMR spectroscopy for studies of biological systems.  During his undergraduate and graduate research, he applied solid-state NMR to address basic biophysical and structural processes that govern protein-lipid interactions.  Specifically, he probed the molecular interplay between hydrophobic mismatch and transmembrane helix tilt and how proteins or peptides can modulate membrane curvature.

His postdoctoral research in the Griffin lab centered on magic-angle-spinning methods that permitted him to address an expanded array of biological and biophysical questions.  His work focused on both the methodological aspects of solid-state NMR and the applications to determine protein structure and dynamics, including the application of low-temperature dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) to amyloid-related samples and on the effect of low temperatures on protein dynamics and solid-state NMR spectra.  Using various magic angle spinning methods, Dr. van der Wel characterized structure and in particular, the internal conformations, of amyloid fibrils.

At the University of Pittsburgh, his lab uses an array of solid-state NMR measurements of site-specific structure as well as dynamics to further our understanding of protein-membrane interactions and amyloid formation.  A particular focus has been on the aggregation process associated with polyglutamine expansion in Huntington’s disease and related disorders.  Dr. van der Wel has published more than 30 papers, covering topics ranging from amyloid formation and structure, to membrane biophysics, to low-temperature DNP, to magic angle spinning and oriented-membrane solid-state NMR spectroscopy.

The award, sponsored by Agilent Technologies, Inc., will be presented on Tuesday, November 19th from 2 to 5 pm.