Current Research Presented at Biophysics, Chemistry Retreat

Vern Schramm spoke on “Drug Design from Transition State Analysis” during the 12th annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat Sept. 22 in Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Schramm is professor and the Ruth Merns Chair in Biochemistry at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He investigates enzymatic transition state structures, which enable him to develop powerful inhibitors for treatment and prevention of cancer and other diseases.

Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, spoke on “Phase Transitions in Biological Membranes.”

Students and faculty also presented their research at two poster sessions. Pictured, Ph.D. candidate Yayan Zhou explains her current study to Professor Schramm. Zhou studies the mechanisms of proteins that are critical for DNA replication. Her advisor is Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Swastik De presents his poster to Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology. De's study is titled, "High-resolution structure of the Vibiro cholerae cytolysin heptamer." Swastik is studying the structure and function of a toxin produced by the pathogen responsible for the cholera pandemic. His advisor is Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, and her students, Alexandra Givner '12, Julie Hsia '14 and graduate student Kevin Barry, presented a study titled "The Synthesis of Fluorescent Probes for the Detection of Lignin." Taylor organized the retreat.

At left, Kateryn Nunez '13 is developing a methodology to monitor protein-DNA interactions. Nunez uses molecular beacons, or fluorescent probes, that reveal the structure of DNA molecules. The beacons, which are attached to the DNA, are bright when no protein is bound and dark when proteins are bound. "Our ultimate goal is to be able to screen the affect of drugs and other small molecules on the protein-DNA interaction using the Molecular Beacon methodology," she explains. "Our overall interest in gene expression lies in the fact that cancer is often caused by gene expression gone awry." Nunez's advisors are Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Philip Bolton, professor of chemistry.

At left, Kateryn Nunez '13 is developing a methodology to monitor protein-DNA interactions. Nunez uses molecular beacons, or fluorescent probes, that reveal the structure of DNA molecules. The beacons, which are attached to the DNA, are bright when no protein is bound and dark when proteins are bound. "Our ultimate goal is to be able to screen the effect of drugs and other small molecules on the protein-DNA interaction using the Molecular Beacon methodology," she explains. "Our overall interest in gene expression lies in the fact that cancer is often caused by gene expression gone awry." Nunez's advisors are Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Philip Bolton, professor of chemistry. (Photos by Bill Tyner '13)