South Africa (Fulbright S&T awardee 2010)
South African Fulbright Science & Technology Fellow Matthew Adendorff is working toward a PhD in Computational Biology with a particular focus on the modeling of biological systems at the molecular level, i.e. systems biology, drug-target interactions, and rational protein design and optimization. He believes that it is through the implementation of rational-design methods that best allow for new technological tools to be developed in order to solve the problems of the future.
The research that Matthew previously completed has involved the application of advanced computing methodologies to the development of novel anti-malarial treatments. He worked on the synthetic and computational study of novel anti-malarial isonitriles and their abilities to inhibit the growth of the malaria parasite, P. flaciparum, which is a serious problem in sub-Saharan Africa. This work looked at the electronic topologies and molecular bonding orbitals of these inhibitor molecules and used this information to elucidate how they inhibit the polymerization of free heme moieties into chemically inert ?-hematin crystals. Matthew has also worked on the validation of a theoretical model of the P. falciparum DXR protein via extensive docking of inhibitor molecules, i.e. the known inhibitor fosmidomycin and its analogues, into the proposed model using a Lamarckian genetic algorithm.
At MIT, he is applying the Carr-Parrinello molecular dynamics (CPMD) method to investigate a naturally occurring non-oligomeric zipper which has shown signs of acting as ‘proton switch’. Matthew is very interested in the application of chemistry to solving biological problems. He also has a particular interest in the use of modern computing algorithms, e.g. density functional theory (DFT), Carr-Parrinello molecular dynamics (CPMD), and statistical docking calculations to simulate the interactions of potential chemical agents with their biological targets. The field of computational biology/theoretical chemistry draws upon the techniques of several disciplines i.e. computer science, physics, mathematics, biology, biochemistry and chemistry. Matthew enjoys this multi-disciplinary approach to problems and believes it will allow him to approach such theoretical problems with great competence.