Office Phone: 301-405-1812
 Office Address: 4500



  • A.B., Chemistry,1980, Barnard College, Columbia University
  • Ph.D., Biochemistry, 1986, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Postdoctoral Experience
  • 1986-1987 Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Robert T. Sauer, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1987-1990 Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Gary K. Ackers Department of Biology, Johns Hopkins University

Professional Experience

  • 1990-1996, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • 1996-1999, Associate Professor, University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • 1999-2002, Associate Professor, University of Maryland College Park
  • 2002-present, Professor, University of Maryland College Park

Research Interests

Biophysical Chemistry, coupled equilibria in biological regulation, protein:protein interactions, regulation of protein function, bacterial TypeVI secretion, communication between metabolism and transcription regulation

Major Recognitions and Honors

  • NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1987-1990
  • DuPont Young Professor, 1993-1996

Significant Professional Service and Activities

  • 1986-1989: NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1993-1996: DuPont Young Professorship,
  • NIH-NIGMS, BBCA Panel-Member 2000-2004, F31/32 Panel Member, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012, S10 Review Panel, August, 2006, August, 2007, MFSE (ad hoc) October, 2008, NSF-Major Research Instrumentation Panel-Member, 1997-1999, 2000 Preproposal Review Panel-Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) Program 1999, 2002, 2009, GEX Panel Member, April 2011, November, 2011, Ad-Hoc reviewer for individual proposals.
  • Biophysical Society: Council: 2000-2003 (elected position), Executive Board: 2001-2003, Annual Meeting Program Committee: 2000-2003, Elected Chair, Molecular Biophysics Subgroup:2001-2002, Chair, Nominations Committee: 2003-2004, Member, 2004-2005, 50th Anniversary Meeting Committee Member: 2003-2006
  • Secretary of the Biophysical Society, Term-2007-2011
  • Gibbs Conference on Biothermodynamics President:  2005-2006
  • Co-Chair (with Michael Hecht) 2010 Biopolymers Gordon Research Conference
  • Associate Editor-Protein Science 2009-present
  • Editorial Advisory Board Member-Biochemistry, 2010-present


Research Interests

Regulation of protein function in a transcription regulatory circuit and bacterial TypeVI secretion

The Strategy

We use multiple experimental and computational approaches to elucidate mechanisms of regulation of protein function and relate these mechanisms to biology.

The Systems

I. Communication Between Metabolism and Transcription Regulation: E. coli Biotin Regulatory System allowsbeckett-figure-2biotinregulation-2 bacteria to regulate the production or uptake of the vitamin, biotin, in response to metabolic demand. We study the functional switch of the major protein, BirA, between its roles in supplying biotin to metabolism and regulating biotin biosynthesis. Formation of alternative protein:protein interactions is a central feature of this switch. Activation of BirA for these alternative interactions is mediated by the small molecule allosteric modulator, bio-5′-AMP. We use biochemistry, structural biology, and computation to determine the molecular basis of the allostery and selective protein:protein interactions that are central to this biological switch.

II. Deadly toxin delivery by a bacterial nano-syringe

beckett-figure-1typevisecretion-2Bacterial have evolved systems to secrete toxic biomolecules for use in pathogenesis and inter-bacterial competition. The Type VI secretion system is found in 25% of sequenced gram-negative bacteria including Vibrio cholera, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli.  A Type VI syringe-like device assembles in a bacterial predator in response to contact with a prey bacteria. Once assembled, the syringe contracts and protein toxins that can destroy essential cellular components are injected into the prey bacteria. Toxin targets include membranes, cell wall and nucleic acids.  We investigate the mechanism of selective toxin recruitment to the syringe, the biochemical basis of toxin-mediated killing of target bacteria and the structural and energetic basis of toxin neutralization in a target bacterium.

Recent Publications

Wang & Beckett. (2017) Protein Science, PMID: 28466579
Cressman & Beckett (2016) Biochemistry 419,PMID: 26678378
Postel et al. (2016) Elife, PMID:27664419

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