Anthony Nguyen, 2017 Matriculant

Anthony Nguyen, 2017 Matriculant

Anthony had always set his sights on becoming a physician and in his sophomore year at Brandeis University, he was accepted to an early assurance program at Tufts Medical School that guaranteed a spot upon graduating. Tufts encouraged him to research areas he was interested in his final years of undergraduate studies, so he spent the summers at Columbia University working in the lab of the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and cryo-EM pioneer, Dr. Joachim Frank. This was in 2012 before cryo-EM technology was widely used. Anthony learned the theory behind cryo-EM and applied it to studying ribosomes. He became proficient at operating an electron microscope, taking and developing just 78-100 black-and-white films per day—all by hand. To put this in perspective, back then it took four years to solve a full structure, compared to now, when a cryo-EM can take 4000 images per day at near-atomic resolution, and solve a structure in just weeks.

After his second year of medical school, Anthony decided to take a year off to bolster his research skills in biology. He hadn’t been in the lab for some time and wanted to tackle new problems and explore areas he hadn’t before. He applied and became a Howard Hughes Medical Research Fellow in the lab of Dr. Bob Lefkowitz at Duke, also a Nobel Laureate and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. It was there he realized a career as a physician/scientist was a better fit, so he transferred to Duke’s Medical Scientist Training Program and has continued working in the Lefkowitz Lab to finish his PhD. In the Lefkowitz lab,  Anthony is using his cryo-EM expertise to study G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) the largest family of cell-surface receptors that signal and regulate many physiological processes. These receptors detect extracellular signals from other parts of the body and communicate them within the cell, triggering a signalling cascade that leads to a physiological consequence. Specifically, Anthony is researching the structural basis of sustained signalling—a phenomenon whereby some GPCRs, which normally stop signalling at the plasma membrane, continuously signal within the cell. His research will hopefully pave the way for the development of short- and long-acting therapeutics.

Anthony wants to continue his research during a cardiology or rheumatology residency because his best situation will match his research and clinical interests. He finds the variety of both is exciting, especially when it provides a path from the bench to the bedside.