108 Students Benefit from Hughes Summer Research Program

Hughes Fellow Patrick Sarver '14 is spending his summer working with Michael Calter, associate professor of chemistry. He studies “The Catalytic, Asymmetric ‘Interrupted’ Feist-Benary Reaction."

Through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wesleyan Hughes Summer Research Program supports undergraduate education in the life sciences. This summer, Wesleyan is hosting 43 Hughes Fellows and approximately 65 Hughes Associates. Hughes Associates are not funded by Hughes, but they participate in Hughes activities.

The program runs from May 25 to July 29 and is open to freshmen, sophomores and juniors currently enrolled at Wesleyan. Fellows receive a $4,000 stipend and are expected to work full-time on their research.

Wesleyan faculty members serve as mentors in the Hughes Summer Research Program. The Summer Program also includes weekly seminars and workshops, a symposium, various social events, and a closing Poster Session. More information on the Wesleyan Hughes Program is online here.

Below is a video and several photographs of 2011 Summer Hughes Fellows:

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This summer Hughes Fellow Adion Sutherland '13 is studying "The Oxidation of Derivatives of (the chemical) Cyclooctatetraene." His advisor is Albert Fry, the E.B. Nye Professor of Chemistry.

Hughes Fellows Evan Baum '13 and Zvikomborero Matenga '13 are working with Adion Sutherland on the chemical research. "As this is a synthetic organic chemistry lab, we run the reactions and when we find out what the products are we formulate a mechanism for the reaction," Matenga explained.

Hughes Fellow Priyanka Moondra '13 is studying "The Role of Histone H1 in Core Nucleosome Dynamics" with her advisor, Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. The histone H1 protein is a fundamental building block of chromosomes. "I hope to clarify the function of linker histone H1 by studying interactions between HHO1, a gene that codes for H1 in budding yeast organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and H3/H4 core histone proteins," she says.

Hughes Fellows Jessica Sherry '13 and Mfundi Makama '14 are working on a project titled, “The origin of ecological diversity in Bacillus on a salinity gradient in Death Valley.” Microbes living in such environments could shed light on life which may have inhabited ancient Martian environments. ”Their advisor is Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Jessica Sherry shows off a petri dish with bacteria colonies. Each colony is descended from a different spore collected from the salinity gradient. This represents the first step in isolating and cultivating Bacillus strains from nature. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

All summer Hughes Fellows are invited to frequent summer seminars. The speakers design their talks to be interesting and valuable for the undergraduate audience of varying scientific backgrounds and fields. Pictured are students listening to a lecture on June 8 in Kerr Lecture Hall. Chandran Sabanayagam, assistant professor of physics at Delaware State University, spoke on "Viral DNA packaging machineries: The most efficient, most powerful and smallest motors on Earth."

Following his talk, Sabanayagam, pictured at left, met with Michael Weir, director of the Hughes Program in he Life Sciences, and Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, director of graduate studies. Mukerji hosted the lecture. (Lecture photos by Bill Tyner '13)