Ph.D. Candidate and CUNY ASRC Structural Biology Initiative Student Awarded the 2022 Horst Schulz Award in Biochemistry

Xingjian (Jim) Xu headshot

Ph.D. candidate Xingjian (Jim) Xu, who studies how proteins respond to different environmental factors at the CUNY ASRC Structural Biology Initiative, has won the 2022 Horst Schulz award and was honored at the recent virtual awards ceremony. The Horst Schulz award is the highest award from the Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in Biochemistry and is awarded annually to the student with the best first-authored paper.

Published in Biophysical Journal, Xu’s paper, “Volume and Compressibility Differences Between Protein Conformations Revealed by High-Pressure NMR, ” , establishes pressure-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) as a suitable technique to study protein conformational changes. He and his lab members came to this conclusion by studying a mutation variant of the ARNT PAS-B domain. The factor was artificially created by past members of the lab where Xu conducts research  with Kevin Gardner, the founding director of the ASRC’s Structural Biology Initiative.

“The methods and analysis I performed can be adapted easily to studying other proteins that have multiple folded conformations,” says Xu. “This work provided us with a lot of information about the ARNT PAS-B domain that is not easily accessible through other techniques, which can be important because ARNT PAS-B is a potential therapeutic target for many diseases,” including various types of cancer.

Gardner, who has conducted research with and mentored Xu since 2017, is elated by his mentee’s recent acknowledgement. “I’m tremendously proud of Jim and his accomplishments, especially those in the recognized paper,” he said. “This work arose from a great combination of his creativity, persistence and independence in recognizing a challenging problem in biophysics and biochemistry, and finding a way to address it.”. Xu is equally excited by the news and acknowledges the “immense effort and contribution” of Gardner and his co-authors.  “I am thrilled to receive this recognition. It’s great to see our efforts recognized by other experts in the field. It is definitely a validation of the tireless work that was put into this project.”