Saturday, October 18, 2014

Publication in Electroanalysis

Professor Grace Muna and her team of students researchers have published another research article in the research journal Electroanalysis. This manuscript, Electrochemical Detection of Steroid Hormones Using a Nickel-Modifies Glassy Carbon Elecrode (click link for abstract) is the result of two years of work from a variety of students working at different times. Her team includes biochemistry students Michael Partridge (2014 graduate), Hala Sirhan (2014 graduate), Nigel Guerra; biology major Holly Garner; and high-school student Bridget VerVaet (2014 high school graduate).  Muna and her students have demonstrated that their method for detecting steroidal hormones is not just a proof-of-concept example, but suitable for practical applications such as river water analysis. Congratulations to Muna and the many students who have worked with her!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Undergraduate Research This Past Summer

This past summer several students enjoyed the opportunity to research with Professor Anderson. Biochemistry majors Krista Schilling, Letty Black, Jose Zelaya, and Daniel Chupp worked on cloning the genes for arsenite oxidase so that eventually enough enzyme could be produced artificially (rather than in the native organism) for structure/function studies. This research combined molecular biology, microbiology, and biochemistry techniques as well as classic column chromatography. The plan was to isolate the three genes from Alcaligenes and place them into E. coli (using Gateway Topo-A cloning) to direct E. coli to synthesize the enzyme on demand. Anderson anticipated plenty of pitfalls because of the large size of the gene and the several unusual cofactors in the protein and remarks that it was a perfect project for introducing students to research because of its challenges and trouble-shooting opportunities. Now that the summer has passed, here is what Krista Schilling (pictured) has to say about the experience:

"Undergraduate research gave me the opportunity to really work with the science I'd been learning in my classes. I was able to use techniques I'd learned in class labs and more importantly I learned many things you just don't come in contact with unless you participate in this sort of independent, active learning. My favorite part was having to really figure things out to make our experiments work - I felt so invested in the outcome and very proud when I was able to contribute meaningfully to problem-solving. Having worked on a project like this makes me feel capable and ready to tackle harder upper-level classes and to pursue my long-term goals in science."

We look forward to the possibility of a Spring presentation at our campus's annual Undergraduate Research Conference.  If you are interested in working on a research project, please contact one of the professors in our department. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Biochemistry Major Goes Anabolic!

The department's first two biochemistry degrees were awarded in 2007 after Professor Gretchen Anderson developed this bachelor of science program. Since then there has been only growth and it is now larger than the chemistry program. About 40 current students have declared biochemistry as their major and last semester ten of these students made the deans' list. 

There is now so much interest in biochemistry that this fall the first semester lecture (CHEM C484) holds a class of 37 students and the laboratory class (CHEM C486) had to be offered as two sections. This was only possible due to visiting professor Jake Plummer who is now teaching the lecture course so that Anderson can teach both sections of the laboratory. With Anderson as the only permanent full-time biochemist, the biochemistry major is not sustainable as the rigorous and preparatory program to which our students are accustomed. Fortunately the university has given our department permission to hire a new faculty member as a second biochemistry professor. This position will also us to better accommodate students in the classroom, but also open new avenues for student research. The ad is posted in several places - here is a post in HigherEdJobs.