New faculty spotlight: Don Ronning, Ph.D.

February 03, 2020

Image with caption: Don Ronning, Ph.D.

Don Ronning, Ph.D.

Don Ronning, Ph.D., is a new faculty member at UNMC.

  • Name: Don Ronning, Ph.D.
  • Hometown: Fergus Falls, Minnesota
  • New title and department at UNMC: Professor of pharmaceutical sciences, UNMC College of Pharmacy

Research/professional interests:

  • Structural biology of microbial proteins;
  • Discovery and development of antibacterial compounds; and
  • Identifying mechanism-of-action of old antibacterial drugs.

How I fell in love with structural biology: I was in my second year at the University of Minnesota and looking through a catalog of researchers who supported undergraduate research. I ran across a description of a group that was using X-ray diffraction to determine the three-dimensional structures of toxic shock syndrome Toxin-1 variants. To a sophomore who had not taken biochemistry, the idea that one could map the atomic positions of a polymer composed of thousands of atoms was an exceptionally novel and stimulating concept. Adding to the intrigue was that "flesh-eating bacteria" was ubiquitous in the news media, and Pat Schlievert, who was at the University of Minnesota at the time, was the world's expert on TSST-1, which stimulates the immune response causing Toxic Shock Syndrome. It turned out that I was reasonably good at crystallizing proteins. That got me started, but the real kicker was during graduate school when I saw my first experimentally derived electron density map. There was no turning back after that.

Degrees:

  • B.S. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • Ph.D. Texas A&M University, College Station
  • Postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health

Memberships:

  • American Chemical Society
  • American Society of Microbiology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science

Three things people may not know about me:

  • There is little in life that I enjoy more than being the guinea pig for my wife's baking experiments.
  • I saved one of my collaborators from drowning during a whitewater rafting trip.
  • I learned to sail a Flying Scot on the Chesapeake Bay during my postdoc years.

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