Alex Hughes

Alex Hughes

Alex Hughes’ experience as an intern during his undergraduate education shaped his interest in translational research, specifically investigating the mechanisms at play in everyday cellular processes and biological functions.

Hughes earned his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering with a chemistry minor in 2017 from Mississippi State University in Starkville. There, he researched protein-nanoparticle interactions with Nicholas Fitzkee, PhD. In 2016, he participated in the St. Jude Pediatric Oncology Education program, where he worked in the lab of Tanja Mittag, PhD, Structural Biology. He focused on intrinsically disordered proteins and their effects on signal pathways that could lead to the rise of diseases including cancer and neurodegeneration.

Hughes currently works in the lab of Lyndsay Schwarz, PhD, Developmental Neurobiology. His research aims to understand the anatomic characteristics and functional role of a novel population of neurons in locus coeruleus that express an endogenous opioid and likely contribute to the aversive attributes of anxiety and depression. He earned his master’s degree from the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in June 2019.

“St. Jude allows you to take the work that you do into the lab and really see the benefits it can have in the patients’ lives. St. Jude provides the missing link between research and the actual impact it has on patients,” he says. “Other graduate schools cannot offer this unique experience.”

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Dissertation: Determining a Role for Dynorphin-producing Neurons Within the Locus Coeruleus


Perera YR, South TM, Hughes A, Parkhurst AN, Williams OC, Davidson MB, Wilks CA, Mlsna DA, Fitzkee NC. Using NMR to Measure Protein Binding Capacity on Gold Nanoparticles. J. Chem. Ed.Jan. 21, 2020. 97 (3), 820-824. DIO: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b00625

Perera YR, Hughes A, Fitzkee N. The Adsorbtion Kinetics of Biomolecules on to Pegylated Gold Nanoparticles. Annual BPS Meeting. Abstract in Biophys J. Feb. 15, 2019.

Perera YR, Wang A, Hughes A, Fitzkee N. Modulating Protein-Nanoparticle Interaction Energetics using Site Directed Mutagenesis. Annual BPS Meeting. Abstract in Biophys J. Feb. 3, 2017.

Martin E, Holehouse A, Grace C, Hughes A, Pappu R, Mittag T. Sequence determinants of the conformational properties of an intrinsically disordered protein prior to and upon multisite phosphorylation. J Am Chem Soc. 138(47):15323-35, 2016.