Rice engineers receive Welch Foundation research grant

Han proposes to investigate voltage-gated ion channels.

Yimo Han

Yimo Han is among three researchers in the George R. Brown School of Engineering to have received grants from the Welch Foundation to further their research.

Han, assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering; Xue Sherry Gao, the Ted N. Law Assistant Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChBE); and George Lu, assistant professor of bioengineering and CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research, each received a three-year, $240,000 grant.

Han’s proposal is titled “Investigation of the Structural Dynamics of Voltage-Responsive Membrane Proteins.” She proposes to investigate voltage-gated ion channels (VGICs), a class of transmembrane proteins that form ion pathways activated by changes in the electrical membrane potential near the channel.

Her goal is to investigate the structural dynamics of VGICs in response to electric signals. To achieve such a controllable electrical environment will require techniques ranging from basic biochemistry to advanced nanotechnology. State-of-the-art cryo-EM combined with fluorescence microscopy and theoretical simulations will be used to determine the structure and dynamics with near-atomic resolution.

Han earned her B.S. in physics from Tsinghua University, China, in 2012, and her Ph.D. in applied physics from Cornell in 2018. After more than two years as a postdoctoral researcher in molecular biology at Princeton, she joined the Rice faculty in 2020.