Research News

Oak Ridge and Vanderbilt come together to explore cellular processes

Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan

Vanderbilt University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are combining their expertise in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and computation to explore transformative, interdisciplinary ways to study complex cellular processes to tackle some of the most pressing problems in biology.

The collaboration between the university and ORNL was propelled by a May 3 campus meeting facilitated by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. “ORNL and Vanderbilt researchers have complementary strengths,” said Padma Raghavan, vice provost for research. “By creating opportunities like this for our teams to tackle critical problems in biological sciences together, we can enable breakthroughs that could not happen otherwise.”

Faculty from the School of Medicine, School of Engineering and College of Arts and Science met with ORNL directors and team leaders to present collaborative project ideas. Topics ranged from intracellular protein structure and function to single-cell kinetics and cell-population dynamics. These opportunities combine ORNL’s scientific, analytical and computational capabilities with Vanderbilt’s cell biology expertise to explore uncharted areas. Scientists are now designing experiments and planning next steps.

The meeting was organized by Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and ORNL liaison Carlos F. Lopez, and Moody Altamimi, director of research excellence at the national laboratory. “I am excited to foster interactions between Vanderbilt and Oak Ridge where truly synergistic outcomes could develop,” Lopez said.

Those attending were:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • Moody Altamimi, director of the Office of Research Excellence
  • Michelle Buchanan, deputy for Science and Technology
  • John (Jack) Cahill, R&D associate scientist, mass spectrometry, chemical sciences division
  • Hans Christen, director, Center of Nanophase Materials, physical sciences directorate
  • Marti Head, director, Joint Institute for Biological Sciences, energy and environmental sciences directorate
  • Reinhold Mann, assistant to the associate laboratory director, energy and environmental sciences directorate
  • Julie Mitchell, deputy director, biosciences division
  • Hugh O’Neill, director of the Center for Structural Molecular Biology, neutron sciences directorate
  • Arvind Ramanathan, team leader, integrated systems biology, computational sciences and engineering division
  • Georgia Tourassi, director of Health Data Sciences Institute, computational sciences and engineering division

Vanderbilt University

  • Richard Caprioli, Stanford Moore Professor of Biochemistry, professor of chemistry, medicine and pharmacology, director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Center
  • Walter Chazin, Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, professor of biochemistry and chemistry, director of the Center for Structural Biology
  • Scott Guechler, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, biomedical engineering and medicine
  • Carlos Lopez, assistant professor of biochemistry, pharmacology and biomedical informatics
  • Jens Meiler, professor of chemistry, pharmacology and biomedical informatics
  • Jeremy Norris, research associate professor of biochemistry
  • Vito Quaranta, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, director of Vanderbilt Quantitative Systems Biology Center
  • Padma Raghavan, vice provost for research, professor of computer science and computer engineering
  • Eric Skaar, Ernest W. Goodpasture Professor of Pathology, professor of microbiology and immunology, director of the Division of Molecular Pathogenesis, director of the Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation
  • Jeffrey Spraggins, research assistant professor of biochemistry and chemistry
  • Julie Sterling, assistant professor of medicine and biomedical engineering

To learn more or participate in meetings with ORNL researchers, please contact Lopez at