Most of our biochemistry majors become actively engaged in research during their academic careers either during the semester or during the summer. Approximately 12-15 students do research on campus each summer with biochemistry faculty and another 20-25 students typically do research during the academic school year. Some students start doing research during their first year.
Students interested in pursuing careers in medicine also have access to clinical internships, skill training and direct patient care experiences through a special partnership with Finger Lakes Health, a local health system with 75 staff physicians and a broad range of primary and specialty services located just one mile from campus.
A list of students and their current research projects (2011-2012) is found below:
All of the biochemistry faculty are research and grant active and involve undergraduate students in their research programs. Faculty research interests include synthetic chemistry, analytical chemistry, computational chemistry, the chemistry and pharmacology of alcohol, enzyme kinetics, microbiology, pathogenicity, protein interactions, gene expression, and development.
Interactions of Pathogen Agrobacterium vitis
I am interested in understanding the interactions between the pathogenic bacterium, Agrobacterium vitis, and its host plant, grape. In particular, I am interested in learning as much as possible about the infection process, such that genetic engineering could be used to induce a defense response in grape upon contact with A. vitis, thus protecting the grape from infection.
Social Norms Approach to Alcohol Abuse Prevention
My research group conducts late-night blood alcohol tests late at night in residence halls. Results of our studies help educate the community on the differences between perceptions and the actual BAC distributions measured amongst different student populations.
Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Molecular Wire Candidates
Research in my group is directed toward the synthesis and characterization of inorganic molecular wire candidates. These materials may find applications in the molecular electronics industry where they could some day be used to replace the silicon chip technology currently found in computers. It is well known that materials that contain metals and/or aromatic rings are able to conduct electricity. My research group has been investigating how the construction of materials that contain large aromatic terpyridine groups held together with Ru, Fe, or Os metal centers behave. We are investigating the preparation of a number of small molecular wire candidates that can be characterized by multinuclear NMR, IR, mass spectrometry, elemental analysis, and electrochemistry.
Development of the Nervous System
The aim of my research is to investigate the role of transcriptional regulation on the development of the nervous system, with a particular focus on the visual system. Our understanding of the regulation of developmental events has been greatly enhanced by the discovery of genetic factors and the ability to experimentally test their functions during embryogenesis.
Solid-Phase Synthesis of Cysteine-Containing Potential Anticancer Compounds
Students will synthesize potential anticancer chemotherapeutics using new synthetic methodology that has been developed in the Miller laboratory. The new methodology is based on solid-phase resins capable of supporting the synthesis of peptidic molecules containing at least one cysteine residue. Along with the synthesis of potential anticancer agents, these resins will find a range of applications involving efficient synthetic routes towards other valuable, biologically relevant targets and their analogs.
Virulence of Xylella fastidiosa
I study the genes regulating virulence of the pathogen Xylella fastidiosa. X. fastidiosa is a plant pathogen that moves via twitching motility using a type IV pili. Type IV pili movement is critical for numerous pathogens, including human ones, yet is not well characterized. Understanding the regulation of type IV pili-mediated motility may provide avenues to block these pathogenic responses.
Developing New Synthetic Methods in Heterocyclic Chemistry
The objective of this research is to design and develop new synthetic methods that can be utilized in the preparation of nitrogen heterocycles with demonstrated biological activity (anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-HIV, etc). The utility of these methods will be evaluated through their application to the synthesis of staurosporinone, heterocyclic analogs of staurosporinone, 3-pyrrolin-2-one analogs of Vioxx, and the aristolactam alkaloids. Staurosporinone is a potent inhibitor of protein kinase C (potential anti-cancer agent) and an important building block used in the synthesis of the indolocarbazole alkaloids.
Macromolecular Crowding and its Implication on Enzyme Kinetics
The interior of cells consists of a heterogeneous mixture of macromolecules that are tens to hundreds of times more concentrated than the dilute conditions used in most in vitro studies. Since two structures cannot occupy the same region of space, a macromolecule will decrease the volume available to other macromolecules in the same solution. This steric exclusion of volume changes thermodynamic activities of molecules, slows diffusion, alters protein chemistry, and consequently has significant ramifications for cellular function. I am interested in how the densely packed interior of cells affects enzyme kinetics. More specifically, my focus involves enzymes that alter DNA structure in order to control gene transcription, because this has downstream implications in aging and many human diseases including cancer. Yet, even at fundamental level of understanding the basic science, many compelling questions arise: Do crowded cellular conditions enhance or reduce the rate of reactions? Are the effects of crowding enzyme specific,or are general trends observed? Do the crowded conditions of the nucleus help regulate gene expression and thus cellular function by controlling enzyme kinetics? I will work with students via chemical, analytical and biological techniques to address these questions. Due to the lack of methods currently available for quantifying kinetics inside cells, my work focuses on creating controlled in vitro environments containing crowding agents that mimic intracellular conditions.
Determination of Aggregation Phase Diagram for Amyloid-like Peptides via Computer Simulation
Research in the van Giessen group focuses on the understanding of the formation and behavior of protein aggregates that play a crucial role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Students will use Molecular Dynamics simulations of a coarse-grained peptide model to determine the concentration-temperature phase diagram of Amyloid-like peptides. The goal is to determine under what conditions the peptides form stable, ?-sheet aggregates similar to those seen in patients suffering from AD. In the process, students will help to determine the pathway or pathways by which the aggregates form and identify the dominant forces during the aggregation.