BMB majors are required to complete at least one semester of independent research, under the guidance of a faculty member in the sciences. Students are strongly encouraged to pursue more than a single semester of research, as additional time spent on independent research generally leads to a richer experience. Below is a sampling of some of the research experiences that BMB majors can take part in.

Adam Cassano, Associate Professor of Chemistry

Chemical Mechanisms of Organic and Enzyme Catalyzed Reactions: Chemical reactions which take over 100,000 years in aqueous solution at physiological pH and temperature can occur in less than a second in an enzyme active site. My research explores the amazing catalytic power of enzymes involved in phosphoryl transfer, one of the most important chemical reactions in biology. My approach is to study the mechanisms of the chemical reaction both in aqueous solution and in an enzyme active site. Results from the laboratory are augmented with computer modeling to provide a better representation of the mechanisms. The aqueous and enzyme mechanisms are then compared to reveal specific catalytic strategies for the enzyme.

Arnold Demain, RISE Fellow

My research involves microbial and biochemical studies on antibiotics and anti-tumor agents, emphasizing fermentation, drug discovery, and determination of the role of primary metabolites (e.g., amino acids, vitamins, purines, pyrimidines) in the production of secondary metabolites such as antibiotics.

Ronald Doll, RISE Fellow

Stephen Dunaway, Associate Professor of Biology

How cells maintain genomic integrity during the process of cell division is a particularly relevant question in molecular biology as loss of genomic integrity is associated with human cancers. Specifically, my lab uses the fission yeastSchizosaccharomyces pombe as a model system to focus on two conserved aspects of genome maintenance.  The first major focus of the group is understanding the mechanisms that control the DNA damage checkpoint pathways in fission yeast. These pathways, which are conserved throughout eukaryotic evolution, halt the cell division cycle in the presence of DNA damage, presumably allowing cells time to repair damaged DNA. Checkpoint failure can lead to loss of genomic integrity.  To help further elucidate these pathways, my research team is investigating the role two DNA damage checkpoint kinases, Chk1 and Cds1, play in maintaining cell viability in response to cisplatin induced DNA damage. A second major area of research interest for the group focuses on how cells repair damaged DNA. In human cells, alterations in this process can lead to genomic rearrangement, mutation, oncogenic transformation, and tumor formation. Fission yeast serve as an ideal model system to study DNA repair because many of the genes involved in DNA repair are conserved from fission yeast to humans.

Roger Knowles, Associate Professor of Biology

The three pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are extracellular senile plaques, intracellular neurofibrillary tangles, and a profound loss of neurons and functional neuronal connections. Recent evidence suggests that there is a connection between these pathologic events. However, the biochemical pathways that link the extracellular deposits and the intracellular dystrophies are unclear. In our laboratory, students choose research projects that focus on trying to elucidate these pathways. Examples of projects include: identification of receptor mediated second messenger activation that can lead to AD-like morphological changes in neurites; quantification of a dose-dependent and time-dependent effects of extracellular stimulation with various molecules secreted by microglia such as nitric oxide; and exploration of changes in microtubule stability due to second messenger stimulation.

Jane Liu, Assistant Professor of Biology

An organism’s genome encodes all of the biochemical instructions needed to produce a living cell. The transcriptional programs of a cell, however, are dynamic, changing as the cell develops, grows and responds to changes in the environment. The control of gene expression is not well understood but all living cells require it. Special properties of RNA make them ideal for rapid switches that alter gene expression in response to changes in environment. My lab hypothesizes that regulatory RNAs are important elements in numerous gene networks that allow cells to develop, grow, adapt and survive. The lab studies the bacterium that causes cholera, Vibrio cholerae, which survives in both animal and aquatic ecosystems. These bacteria must have evolved sophisticated systems to survive in these diverse niches, providing ample opportunity to investigate gene networks for regulatory RNAs. The goals of the lab are to identify and understand these RNAs, and to apply this gathered knowledge to the development of potential therapeutics.