Elisar Barbar grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and attended the American University of Beirut, where she graduated with a degree in chemistry, in spite of the disruption and personal tragedy caused by the civil war. After a few years teaching high school chemistry, she left Lebanon to pursue higher education in the US. She earned her PhD in Chemistry from Portland State University in 1993, working with David Peyton using NMR to characterize antibody-antigen interactions and other large proteins. She discovered her love for dynamic proteins during her postdoctoral years at the University of Minnesota, working with Clare Woodward where she developed NMR methods specific for characterization of partially disordered protein ensembles. From there, she moved on to establish her own research program in the biophysics of the dynein motor protein complex, a new direction after her more theoretical post-doctoral studies on protein folding. Her work on the cargo attachment complex of dynein identifies novel roles for protein disorder in both assembly and regulation of this massive multisubunit complex. An offshoot of this project is her lab’s discovery that the dynein subunit LC8 is in fact a hub protein which has broader roles in diverse systems. Identifying how LC8 is regulated to promote folding, dimerization, and structural organization of disordered proteins in 100+ systems ranging from rabies virus infection to tumor suppression has become a major focus of her lab.
When she is not teaching, working with her students, or writing papers and proposals, she enjoys going on hikes with her husband Michael Hare, traveling to exotic places with her daughter Mary, and cheering for her daughter Wendy playing soccer and running hurdles for Corvallis High School.