Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer research in the Muna lab


Professor Muna's first team consists of Chemistry majors David Aupperle and Joseph Williamson. They are working jointly to study the effect of self assembled monolayers (SAMs) of thiol molecules on gold electrodes modified with electrodeposited palladium nanoparticles (PdNPs). Their goal is to investigate whether the presence of SAMs improves the electrochemical behavior of gold electrodes modified with PdNPs by enhancing the analytical signal during the electrocatalytic oxidation of steroid hormones.

The second group in the Muna lab teams up Chemistry major Abigail Praklet with Biology major Keon Jones. Together they are trying to develope a sensitive and stable electrochemical method to detect lead in both water and soil samples using glassy carbon and screen-printed carbon electrodes modified with bismuth nanoparticles. The developed method will be tested by determining the levels of lead in local samples. Abigail is the fourth student in our department to be awarded a SMART grant this summer. Keon is the recipient of an LSAMP Summer Research Fellowship.

Summer research in the Anderson laboratory


Biochemistry major Victor Gutierrez-Schultz is continuing work on an ongoing project to clone the genes for the enzyme arsenite oxidase into E. coli, and induce these bacteria into making the enzyme in an environmentally friendly manner. This enzyme has the potential to be used in water purification methods to remove arsenic from groundwater. The original host, Alcaligenes faecalis, makes the arsenite oxidase enzyme only when the growth medium contains the arsenite so that growing A. faecalis to isolate the enzyme generates many 55 gallon drums of arsenic-containing toxic waste. By transferring the genes into E. coli, Victor will induce expression of the protein IPTG, a non-toxic inducer of the lac operon. Previous attempts at cloning the arsenite oxidase genes into E. coli generated new mutations, which could affect the structure and activity of the enzyme. Victor is repairing the introduced mutations through site-specific mutagenesis. Subsequent experiments will aim to find the best conditions for inducing enzyme synthesis, correctly folding the two subunits of the enzyme, and properly inserting the [3F-4S] cluster, the molybdopterin cofactor, and the [2Fe-2S] Rieske center into the enzyme. Congratulations to Victor for being awarded a SMART grant to support his summer research with Dr. Anderson.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer research in the Rizk lab


It is crowded in the Rizk lab this summer as three award-winning students work side-by-side with each other and Professor Rizk. While relatively new to the department (he joined in 2015), Rizk was quick to start a research program that attracted several undergraduate students.

Biochemistry major Maggie Fink (left) was awarded the Carolyn & Lawrence Garber Summer Research Scholarship. Her project focuses on using protein engineering tools to generate molecules that self-assemble in a reversible manner. The aim is to find a set of mutant proteins based on the bacterial maltose binding protein that can form large structures when the sugar maltose is added, and then disassemble when the sugar is removed. The project will explore the ability of protein engineering tools to develop dynamic nano-structures based on biological molecules for a number of applications that include drug delivery and biosensing.
 
Another biochemistry major, Mary Sobieralski (second from the left), received a SMART grant for the summer to work on developing engineered proteins known as antibody fragments (Fabs) that can modulate the activity of human enzymes. She is focusing on trying to identify Fabs that can reverse the effects of deleterious mutations in the enzyme cystathionine beta synthase (CBS), which lead to a condition known as homocysteinuria. This disease causes problems with vision as well as heart disease due to the inability of the body to metabolize derivatives of the amino acids cysteine and methionine. Mary will attempt to examine the factors needed to rescue the function of CBS mutants as a first step in addressing homocysteinuria and other so-called enzyme deficiencies.
 
Biology major Pierre N'Guetta (right) is continuing his project from last summer on developing biosensors for glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp. Pierre began the project last summer in the Rizk lab, then during the fall of 2016, students enrolled in the CHEM-C 486 biochemistry lab tested some of the reagents he generated last summer. Pierre hopes to wrap up the project by characterizing a number of biosensors for glyphosate that change their fluorescence profile when exposed to the substance. He is also working on enhancing the sensitivity of the sensors to enable detention of small amounts of glyphosate in the environment. Like Mary, Pierre was also awarded a SMART grant for this summer.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Biochemistry Alumni at Montana State University


IU South Bend biochemistry 2014 graduates Angela Patterson (left) and Jac Miller (middle) independently landed at Montana State University to pursue their graduate studies. Jac followed the footsteps of Dr. Gretchen Anderson and studied enzymes involved in nitrogen fixation with Dr. John Peters. Jac earned her Master’s degree in Biochemistry and is now teaching, doing research, and bringing up her baby daughter Adelaide (in the carriage!) and her horse. Angela is an expert in mass spectroscopy and metabolomics working with Prof. Brian Bothner. She will most likely finish her Ph.D. in 2019. Gretchen Anderson (right) had a chance to catch up with both alumni as well as Dr. Jennifer DuBois, formerly at Notre Dame, and with whom Anderson spent a sabbatical leave in 2008.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Professor Muna is "Getting the Lead Out"!

 
Professor Grace Muna (above) is finishing her research sabbatical at Notre Dame where she is teamed with Professor Marya Lieberman (below left). They've been working on ways to detect lead in paint samples.  The picture above is a screenshot from part two of a special news report from WSBT, channel 22.  The news report can be found online here at WSBT while two videos from the report can also be found on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2 (features Muna).  This summer Muna returns to IU South Bend to continue her research with several undergraduate students.  Congratulations to Muna for making the news and contributing to such an important project. 
 
 

Awards and Graduates 2017


Another academic year ends as freshman become sophomores - and seniors become alumni.  We hope that the former group will have a wonder three years to come at IU South Bend, and that the latter group looks back on their time here with fondness always.  Our graduates are heading to industry, graduate school, and medical school.  They have worked hard and many of them have gathered awards and scholarships throughout their college career.  Listed below is a list of campus awards that our graduates and current students received this academic year. Congratulations to all of you for your effort and success.

Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award
  Sean Galvin
Student Excellence Award in Biochemistry
  Alexandra Hochstetler
Student Excellence Award in Chemistry
  Christopher Warkentin
Joseph H. Ross Seminar Award
   Michael Rauschenbach
Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship
   Victor Gutierrez-Schultz
George V. Nazaroff Scholarhip
   Khai Pham
Carolyn & Lawrence Garber Summer Research Scholarship
   Maggie Fink
Bender Student Scholarship
   Michele Costantino

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rizk Presents at Protein Folding Conference

 
Undergraduates Michele Costantino and Maggie Fink accompanied biochemistry professor Shahir Rizk to the 12th Annual Midwest Conference on Protein Folding, Assembly and Molecular Motion.  This conference is held every year at Notre Dame and attracts protein scientists from across the Midwest including Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. Rizk presented work from his lab on engineered antibody fragments that can be used to modulate protein interactions in order to rescue the function of a mutant enzyme involved in cancer. The conference is a great opportunity for undergraduate students to see new areas of research and how science is communicated.