Biology and Chemistry Departments Receive $60,000 Grant to Support Collaborative Undergraduate Research
The Biology and Chemistry Departments have received one of only 14 Undergraduate Science Research Program Awards provided by Merck and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The goal of this program is to provide interdisciplinary research opportunities for undergraduate students studying chemistry and biology. The award provides stipends for four students at SUNY New Paltz to work full time during the summer on interdisciplinary projects under the guidance of two faculty members.
Optimization of alpha-Pinene derivative house fly attractancy. Aaron Haselton, Biology and Preeti Dhar, Chemistry.
Terpenes can be strong insect attractants. alpha-Pinene, a rigid bicyclic monoterpene, is a major constituent of pine oil, and is attractive to the house fly, Musca domestica. alpha-Pinene has a double bond that allows for a functional group transformations and skeletal changes. The student, working in Dr. Dhar’s lab will synthesize a variety of alpha-Pinene derivatives. Attractancy of derivatives will be determined by the student in Dr. Haselton’s lab using behavioral and electrophysiological assays. Information thus obtained will be used to direct subsequent alpha-Pinene modifications in Dr. Dhar’s lab. Optimizing the attractancy of alpha-Pinene derivatives will help lead to a better understanding the mechanism of attraction and possibly to the development of novel control tools.
Characterization of anti-predator ink activity in crab chemoreceptor neurons. Tom Nolen, Biology and Frantz Andersen, Chemistry.
Most species of marine snails in the genus Aplysia secrete a purple ink that acts as a defense against a variety of predators. About 65% of the ink is composed of r-phycoerythrobilin (PEB), which is derived from the r-phycoerythrin found in the snail’s red seaweed diet. Purified r-phycoerythrin activates the amino acid (feeding) chemoreceptors of predatory crabs but elicits behavioral aversion. In Dr Andersen’s lab, the student will extract and purify PEB from red seaweed, chemically modify its tetrapyrrole structure, and then characterize these new PEB-analogs. In Dr. Nolen’s lab, the student will determine concentration activity curves and cross adaptation interactions of PEB-analogs using electrophysiological recording from the dactyl chemoreceptor axons of the crab, Cancer antennarius. The nature of the active properties of PEB will determined with the goal of identifying the chemical groups responsible for chemoreceptive “recognition” of Aplysia ink by crustaceans.
A study of the strength and character of interaction between cell proteins and potential drugs. Jeff Reinking, Biology and Pamela St. John, Chemistry.
Nuclear receptors (NRs) are transcription factors that control an array of systemic processes. They in turn are controlled by small lipophilic effector molecules called ligands. This project probes the binding affinity between the Ciona intestinalis NR ciem834j15 (a Ciona homologue to the human estrogen receptor) and the hormone estradiol. The student will express, harvest and purify the ciem834j15 ligand binding domain (LBD) protein in Dr. Reinking’s lab using standard techniques. The extent of binding between fluorescein labeled estradiol and LBD protein will be determined as a function of ligand concentration (in Dr. St John’s lab). Binding curves and the baseline affinity between ciem834j15 LBD and fluorescein-estradiol will be used to design mutations within the putative ligand-binding pocket of ciem834j15. The student will perform site-directed mutagenesis in Dr. Reinking’s lab and determine the effect the mutations will have on the binding affinity in Dr. St. John’s lab.
The effect of ruthenium complex structure on cancer cell cytotoxicity. Maureen Morrow, Biology and Dan Freedman, Chemistry.
Ruthenium(II) complexes have been of increasing interest recently due to their cytotoxicity towards human cancer cells. The electronic and steric properties of these compounds are remarkably easy to “tune” because of the wide variety of arene and bidentate ligands that are synthetically accessible. The student will first work with Dr. Morrow to determine the cytotoxicity of the current collection of [(arene)Ru(b-ketoiminate)Cl] compounds by employing a standard SRB cytotoxicity assay on the A549 ovarian cancer cell line. Based on the differences in cytotoxicity, the student will work with Dr. Freedman to vary the R’ group. The student will then determine the effect of altered steric access to the metal center and hydrophobic or hydrophilic properties on cytotoxicity. Potential chemical mechanisms of cytotoxicity will be explored for particular analogs (with Dr. Freedman). Additional cell lines will also be tested for sensitivity to these compounds (with Dr. Morrow).
Students who are interested in participating can fill out an application available in the Biology and Chemistry offices, or download the application here:
The deadline for receipt of applications is April 3, 2009.