Associate Professor of Chemistry
University of Virginia
Rising Star Recipient
Linda Columbus is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia, where she has taught and conducted research since Fall 2007. Dr. Columbus’ research group focuses on the architecture and motions of membrane proteins from pathogenic bacteria, with the aim of understanding how the proteins enable bacteria to hijack normal human cellular function. The long-term application of her research is to utilize the new mechanistic understanding of function in order to develop targeted therapeutic delivery systems. In addition to the applications to human health, her laboratory also develops methods for investigating these difficult systems.
Beyond her federally-funded research program, Dr. Columbus has been recognized with awards and grants for developing effective undergraduate STEM educational initiatives. In collaboration with Drs. Carol Price and Cameron Mura, she developed an innovative research-based laboratory course based on the functional characterization of proteins. The proteins investigated by the students have a known three-dimensional structure, but their biochemical functions have not yet been investigated. This type of full integration of teaching and research underpins all of Dr. Columbus’ professional endeavors, and she has received national recognition for her achievements. Dr. Columbus received a National Science Foundation CAREER award for integrating research and education in 2009, a Cottrell Scholar Award in 2010 and, in 2013, an All-University Teaching Award for her contributions at the University of Virginia.
Dr. Columbus earned a B.A. in Chemistry from Smith College in 1996. Her passion and dedication to teaching and research began at Smith because of her mentors, specifically her research advisor Dr. David Bickar. She earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles with Dr. Wayne Hubbell in 2001. After Dr. Columbus’ postdoctoral work with Drs. Kurt Wüthrich and Scott Lesley at The Scripps Research Institute, she joined the faculty at the University of Virginia. Over the course of these three stages of her education, Dr. Columbus developed a passion to use biophysical methods to investigate membrane protein structure, function and dynamics. She is married to Dr. Cameron Mura, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia.
"We were poor; however, my mother had aspirations…Times were tough through those thirteen years and my primary education opportunities were limited, but because of my mother, I knew I could learn anything from a book and become anything I wanted."