Nicholas Noinaj is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA. He received dual B.A. degrees in chemistry (Lee Roecker) and mathematics (Jan Pearce) from Berea College, Kentucky, USA, and his Ph.D. in biochemistry (w/ David Rodgers) from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA. He did postdoctoral research in the Intramural Research Program at National Institute for Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) (w/ Susan Buchanan), part of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. He subsequently joined the structural biology group at Purdue University in 2014 as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate in 2019. His research focuses on the structural determination of membrane protein folding machineries in pathogenic bacteria and chloroplasts.
In his spare time, Nick enjoys playing and listening to music. He plays several instruments including guitar, bass, and piano. He enjoys photography and cooking, particularly BBQs and smoking his own meats such as ribs, roasts, and briskets. He enjoys sports and is a die-hard Kentucky Wildcats fan (and now also a Purdue Boilermaker fan!).
Nick's research interests are in understanding how pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria are able to use virulence factors found on their surface to mediate infection. These virulence factors are found in the outer membrane and belong to a class of surface proteins commonly referred to as outer membrane proteins (OMPs). In particular, the Noinaj lab investigates the multi-component complex called BAM, which is responsible for the biogenesis of all OMPs, in hopes of understanding how it is able to fold and insert OMPs into the outer membrane. Additionally, his lab studies the TOC complex, the import machinery found in plastid containing organisms such as those causing malaria. His lab uses a combination of techniques to accomplish their goals including X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, crosslinking, and various functional assays. The ultimate goal is to use the information from the structural and functional characterization as a starting point for drug discovery and development targeting these pathogens.
Nick currently teaches 'Introduction to X-ray Crystallography' in the spring which is a mix of lecture and lab modules (crystallization, data collection, molecular replacement, experimental phasing, and refinement, validation, and presentation). The course was inspired and designed around the Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory course on 'X-ray Methods in Structural Biology', where he is a 2007 alumni. In the fall, Nick also teaches an incoming freshmen undergraduate lab course entitled 'First Year Research Experience: Phages to Folds', which is an extension of the successful HHMI-funded SEA-PHAGES course. Here, students will learn DNA cloning, protein expression, protein purification, protein characterization, and structural analysis using CD spectroscopy, SEC, and SEC-SAXS. Students will have a real-world research experience their first semester here at Purdue, which we bridge them finding permanent labs for doing undergraduate studies.