The Interplay Between Local Organization and Activity of a Heterogeneous Base Catalyst

Sandra’s project addresses the synthesis and characterization of imprinted heterogeneous catalysts with local organization at the active site, consisting of hybrid organic-inorganic sol gel materials. One of the challenges facing mankind is the cost effective production of chemicals with less waste to meet the societal needs of an ever-growing population. This requires new heterogeneous catalysts, the most predominant type of catalyst utilized in industry, which are able to conduct chemical reactions with both high activity and selectivity. Biological catalysts, enzymes, are excellent paradigms of controlling catalyst activity and selectivity via the precise placement of functional groups. Translating the efficiency of biological systems to synthetic ones involves tailoring the environment surrounding a catalytically active site on the nanoscale. This can be achieved with the technique of imprinting, which allows control of catalyst structural features including shape, degree of hydrophobicity, and local organization, all of which can significantly affect catalyst performance.

...Read More about Sandra Anderson

Role of Interferons in Primary Dengue Infection in Mice

A Molecular and Cell Biology major, Manasa will study the Dengue virus (DEN), which causes the most prevalent arthropod-borne viral illness in humans worldwide, with an estimated 2.5 billion people at risk. Primary infection results in dengue fever (DF), an acute disease. In primary infections, DEN induces an effective immune response that may involve interferons (IFNs). IFNs are proteins produced by cells in response to various stimuli, especially viral infections, and are known for their antiviral and immunomodulatory effects. The role for IFNs in offering protection against the dengue virus (DEN) has been demonstrated in vitro, but neither the in vivo relevance of these in vitro findings nor the mechanisms of IFN action against DEN are known. Therefore, Manasa will explore the role of IFNs a, b and g in primary dengue virus infection, as well as the mechanisms by which the IFN receptor pathways resolve primary DEN infection in […]

...Read More about Manasa Basavapatna

Role of the cadAB operon in the Egg Resistance of Salmonella

The basic purpose of Raul’s study, which will form the basis for his senior honors thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology, is to understand a characteristic of Salmonella enteritidis (S. enteritidis) that allows it to be the only bacterium to contaminate chicken eggs routinely. The specific objective is to determine the role of a particular set of genes, found in the cadAB operon, in conferring egg albumen/white resistance to S. enteritidis. Preliminary data has shown that a mutant S. enteritidis, with an interruption that disables the cadAB operon, is more susceptible to being eradicated in egg albumen than the wild type S. enteritidis. The cadAB operons function is to code for proteins that are involved in lysine-cadaverine transport and regulation of outer membrane permeability under certain conditions. Raul will determine this operons function when S. Enteritidis is exposed to egg albumen and its role in allowing the bacterium to survive […]

...Read More about Raul Clavijo

A Functional Study of HCMV UL 21 Transcript and Protein

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a member of the herpesvirus family, and a major cause of disease in people with compromised immune systems, particularly AIDS patients. Through the course of Jonathan’s research, several viral mutants that exhibit a severely attenuated ability to grow in cell culture have been identified. Jonathan will study the function of a protein encoded by open reading frame (ORF) UL 21, in which a mutation causes significantly attenuated growth. Through the process of recombination, the protein can be labeled using an epitope tag. Using antibodies that are coupled to a reporter enzyme, the proteins can then be studied using immunoassays to determine clues as to its possible role in the cell. Once the function of the protein encoded by the gene is understood, it can be used as a possible target for therapy. The research will culminate in an honors thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology.

...Read More about Jonathan Clingan

Investigation of the Biophysical Origin of Proteolytic Resistance

Proteases are a class of enzymes that cleave other proteins. Interestingly, the susceptibility of proteins to proteases differs, with some proteins being more resistant to proteolysis than others. The mechanism for this resistance is unclear. By studying model proteins that resist cleavage by the protease trypsin, Jacqueline hopes to determine the biophysical basis of proteolytic resistance. For her senior thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology, Jacqueline will study the structural properties of three resistant proteins from E. coli: potD, argT, and glnH. By utilizing recombinant DNA technology, protein purification methods, and circular dichroism to obtain information about the thermodynamic stability and unfolding kinetics of these proteins, Jacqueline hopes to uncover the mechanism of proteolytic resistance. An understanding of this mechanism has many potential applications in protein engineering, structural biology, and immunology. For instance, rigid proteins that have a longer lifetime and are therefore more effective as drugs can be designed.

...Read More about Jacqueline Gilmore

Cloning of Extended Auricle 1 (eta1): A Maize Leaf Developmental Mutant

Two fundamental questions in both plant and animal development are how patterns are formed and how cell fates are determined. The maize leaf provides an elegant model for examining these questions because its development is well characterized and its use as a genetic system is well established. Nasim will investigate the role of the gene eta1 (extended auricle1) in maize leaf development. The project entails a two-pronged approach to cloning eta1, a gene affecting the development of the maize leaf auricle. One approach will be map-based cloning with the molecular markers simple sequence repeats (SSRs) and restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). The second approach will be co-segregation analysis of putatively transposon tagged eta1 alleles. The mutant phenotype of eta1 may lead us to understand how the fates of cells are determined and how patterns arise. The project will constitute Nasims senior honors thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology.

...Read More about Nasim Sadeghian

A Novel Approach to Synthetic Vaccine for HIV-1 Involving a Beta-Hairpin Peptide Having Fluoroaromatic Amino Acids

Irene’s senior thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology may contribute to the development of a vaccine for HIV-1. A potential target for vaccination against AIDS is the V3 loop region of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein, gp120, which plays an important role in viral infection. V3 adopts a -hairpin structure; the successful synthetic -hairpin peptide may thus mimic V3 and trigger an immune response. However, conformational fluctuations of peptides in aqueous solutions present an obstacle to this approach. Since the potential of fluoroaromatic interactions as a source of -hairpin stability has yet to be explored, Irene will apply previously developed models of fluoroaromatic interactions to design a small library of fluorinated peptides that should adopt stable -hairpin conformations. By comparing the binding affinities of those peptides, she will investigate the possible contributions of fluoroaromatic interactions to -hairpin stability, and explore the potential of resulting peptides in synthetic HIV-1 vaccine research.

...Read More about Irene Wong

Tangible Instant Messaging - Accessible Technology for the Elderly

Technology for the elderly should satisfy not only their functional requirements, but also their social and emotional needs. To develop accessible technology for the elderly and enhance their social connections with their remote family members, Margaret, an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major, will design, implement, and evaluate a tangible instant messaging system, which employs tangible user interfaces (TUIs) in facilitating communications through instant messaging (IM) for the elderly. TUIs involve the use of physically interactive surfaces, the coupling of physical objects and digital information, and ambient media, such as sound, light, and movement. IM allows synchronous Internet-based communications through short, instant messages. Margaret will employ user-centered design and evaluation methods such as participatory design and field studies, to determine how much this research improves informal communications between the elderly and their families. Her research will also provide important insights into the design of technology for the elderly through TUIs.

...Read More about Margaret Yau