Generously funded by Drs. Steffanie Strathdee and Thomas Patterson to encourage graduate-level phage research at the CPT, the Thomas L. Patterson Graduate Fellowship 2022 goes to Jirapat Thongchol from the Junjie Zhang lab.
Jirapat currently is a 5th-year Ph.D. student. He received his bachelor’s degree in Science (Biology) from Mahidol University, Thailand in 2015. During his undergrad study in 2014, he had an opportunity to visit Junjie Zhang’s laboratory as a visiting student where he was first exposed to cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) techniques. He eventually applied to the graduate program in the department. His research focuses on studying the structures of positive-sense single-strand RNA (ssRNA) bacteriophages using single-particle cryo-EM. He is interested in solving the structures of ssRNA bacteriophages, specifically those infecting Pseudomonas aeruginosa using the type IV pilus (T4P) as receptors. In addition to studying the structures of these phages, he is also interested in how they interact with their host receptor since this is the primary step towards their successful infection into the host cell. The T4P is also one of the virulence factors of P. aeruginosa. P. aeruginosa is known to be an opportunistic pathogen infecting immunocompromised individuals, and antibiotic resistance in this pathogen has increased dramatically in recent years. By studying the structure of these ssRNA phages, Jirapat hopes to understand how they evolve to target their hosts, and to use these phages to reduce the virulence of their hosts. Check out more on his research here: https://cryoem.tamu.edu/.