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Welcoming New-CAMB-ers: A Faculty Profile on Melike Lakadamyali, Ph.D.

August 25, 2018

Dr. Melike Lakadamyali joined the Penn community in early 2017 after moving her lab from the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona to the Perelman School of Medicine. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. Dr. Lakadamyali is affiliated both with the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and the Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Groups.

Dr. Lakadamyali completed her Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University with Dr. Xiaowei Zhuang, whose lab developed super-resolution STORM microscopy. For her thesis work, Dr. Lakadamyali developed live-cell imaging techniques that she applied to the study of viral infection. By tracking individual viral particles in real-time, Dr. Lakadamyali captured the endocytic processing of the influenza virus and identified significant heterogeneity within the viral population. More specifically, she found that one viral population initiates de novo formation of clathrin-coated pits at the site of host cell entry, while a second viral population uses a clathrin-independent mechanism to infect cells. For Dr. Lakadamyali, this discovery highlighted the power of imaging systems to identify biological heterogeneity and visualize cellular dynamics with high temporal resolution.

 

Excited by her initial imaging work, Dr. Lakadamyali stayed at Harvard University to complete her postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Jeff Lichtman’s lab. Here, she applied her microscopy skills to address new biological questions, this time focusing on neural circuits in the mammalian brain. Utilizing the Brainbow mouse model, which genetically color codes individual neurons, Dr. Lakadamyali used STORM to trace neurons and neural connections. The high spatial resolution afforded by STORM captured complex neuronal wiring patterns, demonstrating the importance of imaging advancements in driving our understanding of fundamental biological systems.

 

Inspired to continue her development of new fluorescent imaging techniques, Dr. Lakadamyali started her own lab at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain. While this technical environment provided a great opportunity for Dr. Lakadamyali to build new technologies, her curiosity for fundamental biological questions led her to seek new multi-disciplinary collaborations at Penn.

 

Since moving her lab to Penn in 2017, Dr. Lakadamyali’s research has focused on understanding the mechanisms and regulation of intracellular trafficking. Using real-time imaging coupled with super-resolution STORM, Dr. Lakadamyali seeks to understand how motor proteins navigate the complex three-dimensional microtubule network. In an exciting new direction, Dr. Lakadamyali is also using STORM to assess nucleosomal compaction and higher-order chromatin folding, with an overall aim to understand how chromatin structure regulates gene activity

 

As a successful woman in science, Dr. Lakadamyali is a source of inspiration for those of us starting our science careers in CAMB. Dr. Lakadamyali cites her strong female role models, such as her Ph.D. advisor Dr. Zhuang, as influential sources of support and guidance throughout her career. Dr. Lakadamyali explains that from Dr. Zhuang, she learned how to navigate traditionally male dominated fields and how to have her voice heard.

 

She acknowledges that women can often face unique challenges in academia, especially given the demanding nature of science careers, but encourages students that may have self-doubts to “believe in yourselves and recognize that you are as good as any other peer that you have.”

 

And for all students, Dr. Lakadamyali understands that “a lot of difficult phases during a Ph.D. can be discouraging, but persistence and perseverance can help navigate these difficult times.”

 

 

For more information on Dr. Lakadamyali and her lab, please visit her faculty profile or or follow her on twitter (@Melike_Lak).  Dr. Lakadamyali is currently accepting new rotation students. For inquiries into potential rotation projects, please contact Dr. Lakadamyali directly.

 

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