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Mark Frank

BMMB Graduate Student-Nixon Lab
a headshot image of Mark Frank
The Nixon Lab

About Me

I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in 2017 at Saint Francis University (PA.), where I majored in Chemistry and Biology. 


Research Interest

As a Ph.D. candidate in the Nixon lab, I seek to elucidate the interplay between the synthesis of cellulose microfibrils and the oligomerization state of cellulose synthase (CesA). 


Research Summary

Cellulose forms the primary load-bearing component of plant cell walls and has been used by humans for writing, construction, and text tiles for many centuries. In modern times, as concerns over sustainability mount, there is an interest in developing novel, biologically derived materials. To this end, the Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation (CLSF) seeks to uncover the structure of cellulose synthase, an integral membrane protein that synthesizes cellulose from UDP-glucose, and the macromolecular complex it forms, the Cellulose Synthase Complex (CSC). 

Historically, the structure of integral membrane proteins has required the use of detergent to remove the protein from the plasma membrane for downstream applications; however, this treatment also removes the native lipid composition that provides important context for protein function in vivo. My research seeks to develop systems amenable for the study of CesA and CSC structure within lipid bilayers with cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) and electron cryotomography.  Obtaining a CSC structure in the native state will allow for intelligent screening of mutants that modulate CSC function and, in turn, the properties of the cellulose afforded. 


Programs and Training Centers


Honors and Awards

  • Homer F. Braddock and Nellie H. and Oscar L. Roberts Fellowship