Tag Archive for Erika Taylor

Taylor Keynote at Undergraduate Research Symposium

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, delivered the keynote address at the 16th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, hosted by the School of Natural Sciences of Fairleigh Dickinson University on April 25.

Taylor spoke on “Alternative Energy Sources: Enzymology That Is Essential for Making Lignin.”
At Wesleyan, Taylor is exploring the enzymology that is essential for making Lignin a viable biomass source for production of energy and as a commodity chemical feedstock.

Taylor, Barry Published in Biochemistry

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, and chemistry graduate student Kevin Barry, are the co-authors of an article titled “Characterizing the Promiscuity of LigAB, a Lignin Catabolite Degrading Extradiol Dioxygenase from Sphingomonas paucimobilis SYK-6,” published in Biochemistry.

This article is part of their effort to enable the utilization of lignin, the world’s second most abundant natural polymer, as a carbon source for the production of bioenergy and chemical feedstocks.

An abstract will soon be available online here.

Taylor, Hingorani, Students Co-Author Paper in Biochemistry Journal

Two faculty members and two graduate students co-authored a paper published in the July 18 edition of the academic journal, Biochemistry.

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies; Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; chemistry graduate student Daniel Czyzyk; and molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Shreya Sawant wrote the paper, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Investigation of Protein Dynamics of a GT-B Structural Enzyme.”

It appears online here.

Biochemistry is a publication of the American Chemical Society.

Othon, Taylor Design Molecule to Aid Space Travel Ailments

Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, and Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, tune the laser frequency for ultrafast spectroscopy experiments in Othon's Lab in Exley Science Center.

During extended space travel, astronauts may experience dramatic health consequences, such as anemia, due to reduced gravity and exposure to space radiation.

To help combat the adverse effects of space ailments, two scientists at Wesleyan are developing new molecules that enhance cells’ ability to tolerate large swings in pressure, fluid redistribution, temperature and radiation exposure.

Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, and Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, received a $20,000 seed grant from NASA’s Biological and Physical Research Enterprise to work on the project titled “Osmoregulation for Microgravity Environments.”

The scientists are taking inspiration from organisms that thrive in extremely hot, acidic or physically severe conditions. These animals, known as extremophiles, use water-regulating molecules known as osmolytes to combat extremes in temperature, hydration and pressure.

Erika Taylor and Christina Othon. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

By creating chemically modified carbohydrate molecules, the scientists anticipate being able to dramatically alter water dynamics in their newly-designed osmotic molecules. By introducing these new osmolytes near proteins, Othon and Taylor will create a “cage-like environment” around the proteins, eliminating competing hydrogen bonds, and thereby stabilizing the protein structure, even in extreme, anti-gravity environments.

“Ultimately, this could lead to new therapeutic pathways for the deleterious effects of long term space exploration,” Othon says.

Othon, who came to Wesleyan in 2010, worked on similar research at the California Institute of Technology. There, her group discovered a way to alter the movement of water surrounding proteins by adding fluorine. This process made the proteins significantly more stable to chemical and thermal changes.

And at Wesleyan, Taylor is investigating how of sugar molecules attached to a bacterial cell’s surface alter the way the cell interacts with its environment. “In my system, it has been shown that increasing the size of the carbohydrates attached to the surface of a bacterial cell increases the stability of that cell,” Taylor explains.

Since biochemistry and biophysics are closely related disciplines, the cross-department collaboration came naturally for physicist Othon and chemist Taylor. They’re both part of the Molecular Biophysics Program at Wesleyan, an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary program comprised of faculty, postdoctoral research associates, graduate students, and undergraduate students  situated in the departments of chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry, physics and biology.

“Christina and I have many similar interests in understanding how biological systems work, and my hope is that this collaboration can grow toward a joint investigation of small molecule dynamics at the surface of a cell,” Taylor says.


Taylor’s Paper Published by American Chemical Society

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, is the co-author of “Lipopolysaccharide Biosynthesis without the Lipids: Recognition Promiscuity of Escherichia coli, Heptosyltransferase I,” published by the American Chemical Society in Nov. 2011. The abstract is available here.


“Drug Design” Topic of Sept. 22 Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat

Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, will speak on "Phase Transitions in Biological Membranes" during the Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat.

“Drug Design from Transition State Analysis” will be the central topic of the 12th annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat Sept. 22. The public is invited to the retreat, which will be held at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown.

Faculty from chemistry, physics and biology will present lectures.

Taylor Awarded DOE Grant for “Imaging Lignin Degradation”

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry and environmental studies, has received a $193,809 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a project called “Imaging Lignin Degradation.” Taylor will collaborate with colleagues at Penn State University and the University of Tennessee.

Taylor hopes to use fluorescence imaging and isotope trace experiments to develop probes for finding organisms that can break down lignin. She plans to test complex biological samples.

“Think going to the forest and bringing home a bucket of dirt containing small insects and lots of microorganisms and then figuring out which ones can break down lignin. This is related to my own work, where I hope to help turn lignin into a viable carbon source for biofuel production,” Taylor explains.

5 Questions With . . . Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, is exploring lignin as a possible carbon source of biofuel. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

In this issue, we ask 5 Questions to. . . Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry and chair of the 35th Peter A. Leermakers’ Committee.

Q. How did you get involved in biofuel research?

A.There seemed to be a compelling need for more scientists to look for alternatives to biofuel carbon sources beyond the ones that have already been researched, corn being a common, but problematic one.

Q. Can you explain what lignin is?

A. Lignin is the second most abundant polymer on the planet (the most abundant polymer is cellulose). Lignin is interwoven into trees, along with cellulose and hemicellulose, two sugar polymers. Lignin provides the structural rigidity.

Q. Why are you exploring lignin as a possible carbon source of biofuel?

A. more than 50 millions tons of lignin are produced each year. It  is an abundant waste product of both the biofuel and paper industries. Lignin is also found in municipal waste. My hope is to take the lignin and develop a means for recycling it into a biofuel