Hon. B. Sc. Chemical Physics, University of Toronto (2006)
M. Sc. Chemistry, University of Chicago (2007)
Ph. D. Chemistry, University of Chicago (2011)
Prof. Dickson has extensive experience developing new methods for the simulation of rare events, and is driven to apply these tools to the study of ligand binding processes that are relevant to human health. Alex is cross-appointed in the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering, where he currently teaches graduate courses in computational modeling. He loves computational research, and still gets his hands dirty in the lab, assisting in the development of sampling tools and persuing his own research projects.
Before MSU, Alex was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Michigan with Prof. Charles L. Brooks, III. There he worked on a wide range of projects:
- Development of a new sampling method, WExplore, and its application to several biomolecular rare events such as the unfolding of the chignolin protein, and large loop motions in HIV-1 TAR RNA
- Development of new tools for the network visualization of protein dynamics, where entire free energy landscapes are visualized in a single 2D plot, without the specification of specific visualization axes, as in principal component analysis
- Utilization of coarse-grained models in conjuction with enhanced sampling methods to observe and characterize the coupled unfolding and binding of the HdeA homodimer: a periplasmic bacterial protein that helps respond to acid shock
- Modeling higher-order biological reaction networks to study protein chaperone activity in E. coli
Alex obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago in 2011 in Prof. Aaron Dinner's group. His work was mostly focused on the development of another enhanced sampling method: Nonequilibrium Umbrella Sampling, and these ideas helped form the foundation of the WExplore method. In Chicago Alex also worked on projects related to the large deviation theory of driven oscillators, and Ising models of lattice gases.