Huilin Li, Ph.D., (Symposium Chair)
Van Andel Institute, Chair and Professor, Department of Structural Biology
Dr. Huilin Li earned his Ph.D. in electron crystallography from the University of Science and Technology Beijing. He completed postdoctoral research at Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory, where he studied membrane channels and microtubule structure by cryo-EM. From there, he joined Brookhaven National Laboratory as an associate biophysicist, rising through the ranks to attain a tenured position. In 2010, he joined Stony Brook University as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. He is now a professor in Van Andel Institute’s Department of Structural Biology. Dr. Li’s lab studies the structural basis of DNA replication, the mycobacterial proteasome system, and several membrane-embedded protein glycosyltransferases.

Juan Du, Ph.D.
Van Andel Institute, Associate Professor, Department of Structural Biology
Dr. Juan Du earned her Diploma degree in chemistry from University of Goettingen and a Ph.D. from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Freiburg in Germany. While there, she determined the structure of a key enzyme required for gluconeogenesis and revealed new facets of the membrane transporter FocA. In 2012, she joined the Gouaux Lab at Oregon Health & Science University’s Vollum Institute, where her work focused on characterizing excitatory triheteromeric NMDA receptor as well as inhibitory glycine receptor using cryo-EM and electrophysiology. She is now an assistant professor in the Department of Structural Biology at Van Andel Institute. Dr. Du’s lab studies the mechanism and pharmacology of excitatory neuronal receptors, which are critically involved in numerous neurological diseases.

Wei Lü, Ph.D.
Van Andel Institute, Associate Professor, Department of Structural Biology
Dr. Wei Lü received his diploma in biology from the University of Göttingen, and his Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg, in the laboratory of Dr. Oliver Einsle. He then joined the laboratory of Dr. Eric Gouaux (HHMI/Vollum Institute) as a postdoctoral fellow. In 2017, he became an assistant professor in Van Andel Institute’s Department of Structural Biology. Dr. Lü’s studies the structure and function of membrane proteins underlying chemo- and temperature sensations.

Evan Worden, Ph.D.
Van Andel Institute, Associate Professor, Department of Structural Biology

Dr. Evan Worden leverages breakthrough technologies such as cryo-EM to investigate the epigenetic mechanisms underpinning cancer, with a focus on posttranslational histone modifications. He earned his Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from University of California, Berkeley, under the mentorship of Dr. Andreas Martin. Dr. Worden’s graduate work explored protein degradation by the 26S proteasome and answered long-standing questions about the mechanisms that link ubiquitin removal and protein degradation. From there, he joined the lab of Dr. Cynthia Wolberger at Johns Hopkins University as a postdoctoral fellow. Using cryo-EM and biochemical approaches, he elucidated novel functions of Dot1L and COMPASS, two histone lysine methyltransferases that play key roles in gene transcription. In 2021, Dr. Worden joined Van Andel Institute’s Department of Structural Biology as an assistant professor.

He has earned numerous prestigious awards for his research, including a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Paul Ehrlich Award for Postdoctoral Research from Johns Hopkins, and the Nicholas Cozzarelli Prize for best Ph.D. thesis from University of California, Berkeley. In 2020, he was a finalist for the Damon Runyon Dale Frey Award.

Van Andel Institute’s David Van Andel Advanced Cryo-Electron Microscopy Suite harnesses revolutionary technology to visualize some of life’s smallest—yet most vital—components, including cells and molecular complexes, such as proteins. The suite encompasses a suite of state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscopes (cryo-EM), which are supported by expert staff and a robust high-performance computing cluster with extensive cloud capabilities.

The heart of the suite is the Titan Krios transmission electron microscope, which allows scientists to obtain high-resolution images of cells and molecules in their natural state. The Core also houses a Talos Arctica, often considered the “workhorse” of cryo-EM, and a Tecnai Spirit G2 BioTWIN, which is used for preliminary screening of samples.

Van Andel Institute (VAI)
 began with a vision: to improve human health.

Founded by the Van Andel family in 1996, the Institute is now home to more than 400 scientists, educators and support staff – each one of us deeply connected to the work we do and driven by an urgent desire to make a difference.

Every day, we collaborate at the forefront of fundamental and translational science in pursuit of breakthrough treatment strategies for cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases. Through shared values and an entrepreneurial spirit, we spark innovation to multiply the impact of discovery and answer critical questions for our world.

We believe that hope for tomorrow lives in the students of today. Our Graduate School offers a rigorous, research-intensive Ph.D. program that develops leaders in molecular and cellular biology. Our inquiry-based approaches for K–12 education help create classrooms where curiosity, creativity and critical thinking thrive.

A hub for ideas and advancements, the Institute is fueled by a community of bright minds who share a relentless curiosity and a deep commitment to make the world a better place.

At Van Andel Institute, we do more than dream about improving human health. We strive to make it a reality every day.

Learn more about Van Andel Institute at vai.org.

Consistently named to top 10 lists, Grand Rapids was included in the New York Times’s list of top places to visit in 2016, a distinction it also received in 2015 from Groupon and from Lonely Planet in 2014. It has received dozens of accolades in recent years including being named as the Best Beer Town by USA Today. The city is a thriving hub of art and culture, boasting numerous museums and theaters, and is home to a host of restaurants, brew pubs, and bistros that have something for everyone.

Learn more at www.experiencegr.com.