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Josh Vermaas starts faculty position at PRL

Josh Vermaas
Josh Vermaas in his new office
By Christoph Benning

Josh Vermaas, the newest addition to the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL) faculty body, has begun his position this month. His assistant professorship is shared by the PRL and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB).

Josh is a computational biophysicist whose research interests include developing computational models to better understand membrane processes and plant materials.

“I’m really excited to get to work with others at the PRL,” Josh says. “I think the molecular simulation tools my group will bring to research problems can offer unique mechanistic insight coupling macroscale observations to processes happening at the molecular level.”

Research has already begun, leveraging existing structural data to explore permeation pathways into carboxysomes, miniature factories that perform a wide range of functions in bacteria. As new members join Josh’s lab, the research will expand into membrane simulations pertinent to ongoing PRL projects and using machine learning potentials to study plant materials.

Group research in the beginning is going to be powered by remote resources hosted at MSU’s Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research, as well as a workstation with nearly half a terabyte of RAM to be able to load and visualize multi-million atom systems. This level of detail is essential to constructing a detailed mechanistic picture of metabolic processes.

Josh received his bachelor’s degree in physics, biochemistry, and computational math from Arizona State University. He received his Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before coming to the PRL, he worked within the scientific computing group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory after a postdoc at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Outside of the lab, Josh plays field hockey with the family, and is the primary taste tester for his wife Shannon’s baking creations. These have been known from time to time to make their way to work so that the bounty can be shared, so stay tuned!

Welcome to Josh and his family!

By Igor Houwat