Biophysical Newsletter - March 2014 - page 3

Following his postdoc position, Matulis found
work as a research scientist with 3-Dimensional
Pharmaceuticals (3-DP), a mid-sized company later
acquired by Johnson & Johnson. Matulis says,
“I am grateful for my years in industry, where I
got not only significant experience in drug design,
but also the vision that all research is for the better
understanding and better application to practice.”
His experience working in industry served to enrich
his scientific viewpoint and repertoire, but upon re-
turning to Lithuania, he also returned to academia.
In his current position as Head of the Department
of Biothermodynamics and Drug Design at the In-
stitute of Biotechnology, Vilnius University, Matu-
lis oversees about 40 researchers and students. The
goal in assembling this team was to bring together
scientists from a variety of fields: organic synthesis,
target protein recombinant production in bacte-
rial and human cells, computational molecular
modeling to benefit synthesis efforts, protein-
ligand binding biophysics, x-ray crystallography,
pharmacy, and immunology. As Matulis had
experienced in his previous positions, this variety of
viewpoints and foci has led to stimulating science.
He explains, “I believe that most new and exciting
science is born at the interface between these fields.
We have designed over 550 ligands that specifi-
cally bind carbonic anhydrase (CA), a well-studied
enzyme that has twelve isoforms in humans and
has been implicated in various diseases such as can-
cer, glaucoma, epilepsy, and obesity, to mention a
few.” The laboratory hopes eventually to publish
a database of the x-ray crystal structures that are
correlated to the measurements of intrinsic binding
thermodynamics to all twelve CA isoforms.
In addition to his science, Matulis offers the
lab his talent at bringing out the best in those
around him.
Joana Gylytė
, his student of four
years, says, “Dr. Matulis is a true leader who
takes care of every group member and inspires
others to do their best. He is eager to share his
experience and encourages everybody to realize
their ideas.” For his part, Matulis finds seeing
his students’ progress to be one of the most
rewarding aspects of his work as a biophysicist.
While Matulis’s research and mentoring are
fulfilling to him, his career certainly has presented
him with challenges as well. His time training
and working in the US was valuable, but he
explains, “Going to the USA was easier than to
return and produce decent science that could be
of interest in the USA.” Additionally, maintaining
a professional network with scientists in the US
has been difficult after returning to Lithuania.
“The Biophysical Society takes a very special
place in my life,” Matulis says, “It is one of
the main remaining connections with the
US scientists.” Matulis has been working at
establishing connections closer to home, too.
In 2012, he hosted a successful networking event
with the help of a Biophysical Society mini-grant.
Over thirty biophysicists working in Lithuania
met to discuss their research and the future of the
biophysics community within the country, and in
the context of the larger European community.
Matulis’s scientific activities outside of the lab
have not gone unnoticed—or unappreciated.
Osvaldas Rukšėnas
, Dean of the Faculty of
Natural Sciences at Vilnius University, says
of Matulis, “What I like in him is that in addi-
tion to being a high level scientist, he is very
active in science policy activities. He doesn’t
close himself in the laboratory.”
When he is not working on his research or on
science policy, Matulis enjoys exercise (especially
field tennis); reading about politics, history, and
geography; and traveling. More important than
these pursuits is the time he spends with his
family, which includes his four children, and
his wife,
Jurgita Matulienė
, who received her
PhD in cell biology from the University of Min-
nesota in 2003, and returned to Lithuania with
Matulis to conduct her research.
For those considering careers in biophysics,
Matulis would encourage them to continue on
their path, wherever they may be coming from: “I
believe that there could be very many different
paths to biophysics, and therefore there could
be no best advice. However, I feel that the overall
field of deep molecular understanding of cellular
phenomena where weak non-covalent forces are
involved will give us great challenges for many
years….the choice to be a researcher in biophysics is
the right one.”
Daumantas Matulis with
Rex Lovrien (left) at the confluence
of Mississippi and Ohio rivers after a
Gibbs Conference in Carbondale,
Illinois, in 2001.
Matulis on vacation with his family
(wife, Jurgita Matulien and their
four children, from oldest:
Eimantas, Renata, Vaigintas, and
the little Tautvydas) at Druskininkai
Resort in Lithuania in 2012.
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