Abstracts: Thursday, February 16th


Ryan DiRisio | Chemistry
Using Foot-of-the-Wave Analysis to Probe the Electrocatalytic Activity of Cobalt Complexes for Hydrogen Generation
Advisor: William McNamara
Artificial Photosynthesis is an alternative energy method used to generate hydrogen gas from water and sunlight.  Hydrogen gas is a carbon neutral energy source that can be stored and transported.  Artificial Photosynthesis consists of a light sensitive chromophore, a semiconductor, and a catalyst that can actively and efficiently reduce protons to hydrogen gas in aqueous solutions.  In order to be competitive with fossil fuels, the system needs to be cost efficient and active.  Catalyst development is crucial to this process.  Transition metal catalysts are promising due to their low cost.  To more accurately measure the electrocatalytic activity of these catalysts, a new method called Foot-of-the-Wave analysis has been developed.  This new method of analysis will be applied to a novel family of cobalt complexes that have shown promise as catalysts for hydrogen generation.

Teri Liu | Chemistry 
Animation of an Iron Polypyridyl Catalyst for Catalytic Transfer Hydrogenation Reactions
Advisor: William McNamara
An amine group will be incorporated onto an iron polypyridyl catalyst to tune its catalytic ability for transfer hydrogenation reactions. The modified ligand will be synthesized and bind to the metal center. Ultimately, the modified catalyst will be used in catalyzing a transfer hydrogenation reaction, and its reactivity explored and determined by calculating isolated yields of catalytic trials.  


Stephen Gurley | Biology
Characterization of the C. elegans Kelch-like protein, SPE-26 
Advisor: Diane Shakes 
Many eukaryotic proteins are modularly structured and contain several different protein domains, each with a distinct and independent function. Understanding the function of specific protein domains is critical to understanding a protein’s overall function. One protein superfamily of emerging importance is the Kelch-like protein superfamily, members of which contain a propeller-shaped module composed of several Kelch repeat domains.  Members of this family have tremendously diverse cellular functions, from regulation of gene transcription to modulating cytoskeletal dynamics. Furthermore, they exist in a wide variety of animal species, and several are associated with human disease. In the well-studied model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, a species of nematode worm, the gene spe-26 encodes a Kelch-like protein that is required for normal sperm development.  The structure of SPE-26 protein is unusual because it contains an additional BACK domain but not the BTB domain that normally accompanies it. Furthermore SPE-26 protein appears to function specifically during the poorly understood transition point just before the meiotic divisions. This honors thesis seeks to elucidate the function of SPE-26 protein during C. elegans spermatogenesis using various cytological, genetic, and biochemical approaches.

Danielle Horridge | Biology 
The Curious Case of OipA in cagPAI Negative strains of Helicobacter pylori   
Advisor: Mark Forsyth
Helicobacter pylori (HP) is a Gram negative bacterial pathogen that inhabits the stomachs of half of the world's population. While some hosts never show symptoms, in others the infection is associated with peptic ulcers and even gastric cancer. There are several virulence factors contributing to this difference, including the cag Pathogenicity Island (cagPAI), as well as outer inflammatory protein A (OipA). HP isolates lacking the cagPAI induce less host inflammation and possess an oipA phase off allele, while cagPAI positive isolates possess phase on alleles. The present study investigates the relationship between these two important virulence factors in HP.   


Christine Gao | Biology
Variation in NLS-2 flanking sequences of TR-alpha1
Advisor: Lizabeth Allison
The thyroid hormone receptor (TR) is a transcription factor that represses or activates genes whose regulatory regions bear thyroid hormone (T3) response elements (TREs). Modulation of this function requires shuttling into and out of the nucleus. This is mediated by binding of importins and exportins to amino acid sequences within TR, called nuclear localization signals (NLSs) and nuclear export signals (NESs), respectively. The fine balance between nuclear import, retention, and export of TR has emerged as a critical control point for modulating T3-responsive gene expression. Further investigation of NLS sequences and how these motifs synergize with protein function will enhance understanding of how even a single residue change can lead to TR mislocalization. This project thus aims to determine how variations in NLSs can alter protein localization and function. Specifically, the flanking amino acids of NLS-2 in the TR-alpha1 isoform will be analyzed for interference or enhancement of localization activity.

Erin Hennessey | Biology 
Differences in immune cell amounts between F. psychrophilum resistant and susceptible rainbow trout
Advisor: Patty Zwollo