This summer there are close to 300 students on campus, 100 of whom are doing research in various labs on campus. I'll introduce you to the folks working in my lab: Walker Jorgenson '11, from Chicago, Jackie Watson '12, from Jamaica, Jean Santos '12, from Boston, and Raysa Cabrajo '14 from Miami. We will have a few visitors over the summer as well including Rachel Bisiewicz'14 from Brown University. I am ably assisted by Dr. Jim Hebda, who is a Teaching Postdoctoral Fellow in my lab for the duration of my term as Dean of New Students. Without him, my work could not get done. Richmond Ampiah-Bonney, the Academic Manager in General Chemistry, is also a research member of the team.
Jim is from Yale University and is interested in alpha crystallin proteins in the eye. He wants to understand how these proteins work to prevent aggregation of other proteins. This protective aspect enables one unique feature of eyes, that of having proteins in your eye that last an entire lifetime without degrading. By comparison, proteins in red blood cells are recycled every few months. When through disease, trauma, or environmental conditions these proteins are damaged, cataracts form and blindness ensues. Raysa and Jean are working with Jim on this project. Raysa is an HHMI undergraduate Fellow funded through the Hughes Program for Undergraduate Research. Jim is a rising Chemistry major and this will be the subject of his year long analysis for his honors thesis.
Both Jackie and Walker are working on different aspects of cellular signaling through the estrogen receptor. Walker has received a prestigious post-baccalaureate award to continue his thesis work through the summer to analyze the interactions of a second signaling molecule, calmodulin, with the estrogen receptor. He will work with Richmond to scrutinize this interaction using single molecule spectroscopy. Jackie is just starting her thesis work to study how different small molecules might act as mimics to induce expression of downstream genes. We have a really neat yeast expression system which has been altered to contain the gene for the estrogen receptor as well as a estrogen reseponse element that controls expression of a fluorescent molecule, GFP. She has received a White Award that will enable her to travel to the Netherlands later in the summer to learn some of the finer points of yeast cell expression.
Rachel is working the first six weeks at a lab in Columbia University with a former professor of mine, Nick Turro. She is working to help develop a non-invasive fluorescent based assay of circulating insulin. She will finish up her summer in our lab.