Current Members

Manju Narwal

Postdoctoral Scholar

Manju Narwal is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Penn State University. She has done her doctorate in Structural virology (Supervisor: Dr. Shailly Tomar) from the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee. Her research was mainly focussed on the structural and functional studies of the replication enzymes of the Alphavirus members. She investigated the structural aspects of non structural protease (esp. from Chikunugyna Virus) which are the main contributors in the specificity driven cleavage of its substrate sites. In addition, she has used the structural information to identify inhibitory molecules and studied their effects through biochemical activity assays. She has spend some time as DST N-PDF fellow in the lab of Dr. Manidipa Banerjee (KSBS, IIT Delhi). The research at KSBS was focused on the mechanism of human innate immunity factors NfκB processing by Hepatitis A virus (HAV) 3C protease by structural techniques (X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM). Presently in the lab of Prof. Katsuhiko Murakami, she is working on structural basis of bacterial RNA polymerase transcription and the SARS-CoV-2 polyprotein processing by PLpro and Mpro proteases by using cryo-EM and X-ray crystallography methods.

Rishi Kishore Vishwakarma

Assistant Research Professor

Rishi K Vishwakarma is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The Pennsylvania State University. He received his PhD in Biotechnology from CSIR- National Chemical Laboratory/University of Pune, India (Supervisor: Dr. Bashir M. Khan). His PhD research was mainly focused on characterization of gene(s)/enzyme(s) involved in terpenoids biosynthesis in medicinal plant Bacopa monniera, and their overexpression in plant to enhance the triterpenoids contents. Just after Ph. D, he has spent some time in the group of Prof. Hsin-Shang Tsay as a postdoctoral researcher at Chaoyang University of Technology, Taiwan, to study genetic and plant tissue culture approaches for enhanced medicinally important metabolites in plants.  In 2014, he received postdoctoral fellowship from “Fondation Mediterranee Infection”, France and joined Dr. Konstantin Brodolin group (IRIM-CNRS, Montpellier) to study the transcription regulation in M. tuberculosis (Mtb). He was basically involved in study the role of mycobacterial transcriptional regulatory protein, RNA polymerase binding protein A (RbpA) in transcription activation. Along with molecular biology and biochemical approaches, he implemented single molecule FRET assay (in collaboration with Dr. Emmanuel Margeat, CBS-CNRS, Montpellier) to reveal the molecular basis of RbpA mediated transcription activation in Mtb. Later, he joined Dr. E. Margeat group to study molecular mechanism of transcription termination by the helicase Rho from E. coli and Mtb. He used different biochemical and biophysical techniques to decipher molecular interaction between the helicase Rho and the RNA polymerase. He was also involved in to setup a robust single molecule assay (based on TIRF microscopy) to measure Rho processivity and translocation speed, according to its nucleic acid and energetic context. Presently in the labs of Prof. Katsuhiko Murakami and Prof. Paul Babitzke, he is working on structural determination of bacterial RNA polymerase transcription complexes using cryo-electron microscopy and/or biochemical/molecular biology techniques.

George Nkansah Rost Fordjour

BMMB graduate student

George Fordjour is a graduate student in the Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology program and a new member of the Murakami lab. He received his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. As an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Professor Peter Twumasi, George studied the conditions of Escherichia coli for optimized growth and yield of proteins. He later served as a Research Associate in the Pharmacogenomic and Genomic Medicine Group at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana studying the interplay between genomics and pharmacology in HIV-Malaria coinfection. In the Murakami lab, George is interested in understanding the interaction between proteins and nucleic acids in transcription using cryo-electron microscopy.

Natalie Smith

MCIB graduate student

Originally from Dallas, TX, I obtained my B.S. and M.S. in Biology at Missouri State University where I studied nanotoxicology in plant systems using molecular genetic approaches. I joined the Armache lab at Penn State in January 2021 as a tech to learn about gene regulation from a structural biology approach. In August 2022, I joined the MCIBS Graduate Program, and joined the Armache and Murakami labs for my PhD dissertation where I study the interplay between chromatin structure and transcription in regards to gene regulation using structural methodologies. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my cats and husband and watching T.V.

Md. Rimon Parves

BMMB graduate student

Rimon is a graduate student in the Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology program, and he is a new member of the Murakami lab. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Biotechnology from the University of Science and Technology Chittagong (USTC). As an undergraduate research assistant in Halim’s lab, Rimon studied Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) of STK11 and their conformational dynamics using molecular dynamics simulations. Following the completion of his bachelor’s degree, Rimon dedicated a year to developing a simulation method aimed at visualizing protein folding and unfolding, particularly those aspects that cannot be adequately resolved through mass spectrometry alone. During the Covid outbreak, he also served as a molecular biologist, contributing to the screening of samples. Now a member of Murakami lab, Rimon’s current research interests lie in the allosteric mechanism of DNA opening and transcription initiation. He focuses on exploring the interactions between upstream DNA and RNAP using Cryo-EM and molecular dynamics.

Jacob Orrico

Undergraduate Researcher

Jacob Orrico is majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He joined the Murakami Lab to learn more about how structural biology is used to study antibiotics and is interested in medical and pharmaceutical research. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, jogging, reading, and learning about history.

Erik Forczyk

Undergraduate Researcher

Erik Forczyk is majoring in Immunology and Infectious Disease (IID) at Penn State University. From Maryland, he is interested in the potential impacts of gene expression and its effects on cancerous pathways. Involved with Army ROTC at University Park, his future aspirations are to enter the United States Medical Corps to pursue research. In his spare time, he likes to swim, hike local trails, and travel with friends and family.

Kaitlin Liu

Kaitlin Lin

Undergraduate Researcher

I am majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I am interested in learning about how structural biology and medicine are related. For example, using structures to understand protein function and mechanisms that may cause disease due to mutations. I also hope to learn and gain lab experience in X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy. In my free time, I like to listen to music and watch videos to learn about a variety of topics such as coding, human anatomy, and physiology. To destress, I like to exercise.

Yun Song

Undergraduate Researcher

I am majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I joined the Murakami Lab because I am interested in structural biology, especially proteins involved in SARS_CoV_2 replication. As a BMB major, I hope to gain various experiences applying the information I am learning through classes to real life through research. Outside of my academic pursuits, I enjoy playing the piano, listening to music while walking around the campus, and spending time with family and friends.