All of the biochemistry faculty are research and grant active and involve undergraduate students in their research programs. Faculty research interests include synthetic chemistry, analytical chemistry, computational chemistry, the chemistry and pharmacology of alcohol, enzyme kinetics, microbiology, pathogenicity, protein interactions, gene expression, and development.
Professor Sigrid Carle, Biology
Interactions of Pathogen Agrobacterium vitis
I am interested in understanding the interactions between the pathogenic bacterium, Agrobacterium vitis, and its host plant, grape. In particular, I am interested in learning as much as possible about the infection process, such that genetic engineering could be used to induce a defense response in grape upon contact with A. vitis, thus protecting the grape from infection.
Professor David Craig, Biochemistry
Social Norms Approach to Alcohol Abuse Prevention
My research group conducts late-night blood alcohol tests late at night in residence halls. Results of our studies help educate the community on the differences between perceptions and the actual BAC distributions measured amongst different student populations.
Professor Christine de Denus, Inorganic Chemistry
Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Molecular Wire Candidates
Research in my group is directed toward the synthesis and characterization of inorganic molecular wire candidates. These materials may find applications in the molecular electronics industry where they could some day be used to replace the silicon chip technology currently found in computers. It is well known that materials that contain metals and/or aromatic rings are able to conduct electricity. My research group has been investigating how the construction of materials that contain large aromatic terpyridine groups held together with Ru, Fe, or Os metal centers behave. We are investigating the preparation of a number of small molecular wire candidates that can be characterized by multinuclear NMR, IR, mass spectrometry, elemental analysis, and electrochemistry.
Professor Kristy Kenyon, Biology
Development of the Nervous System
The aim of my research is to investigate the role of transcriptional regulation on the development of the nervous system, with a particular focus on the visual system. Our understanding of the regulation of developmental events has been greatly enhanced by the discovery of genetic factors and the ability to experimentally test their functions during embryogenesis.
Professor Justin Miller, Organic Chemistry
Solid-Phase Synthesis of Cysteine-Containing Potential Anticancer Compounds
Our lab synthesizes potential anticancer chemotherapeutics using new synthetic methodology that has been developed in the Miller laboratory. The new methodology is based on solid-phase resins capable of supporting the synthesis of peptidic molecules containing at least one cysteine residue. Along with the synthesis of potential anticancer agents, these resins will find a range of applications involving efficient synthetic routes towards other valuable, biologically relevant targets and their analogs.
Professor Patricia Mowery, Biology
Virulence of Xylella fastidiosa
The bacterial plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa migrates through grapevines causing Pierce’s disease, a deadly infection. Our laboratory is trying to understand how the genes controlling the movement of X. fastidiosa and how we can use this knowledge to prevent Pierce’s disease. I also study potential anti-cancer molecules in collaboration with HWS organic chemist, Prof. Erin Pelkey. His laboratory group is interested in synthesizing simplified analogs of the anti-cancer compound staurosporine. We have identified promising molecules that induce death of cancer cells and are exploring how the compounds induce their response.
Professor Erin Pelkey, Organic Chemistry
Developing New Synthetic Methods in Heterocyclic Chemistry
The objective of this research is to design and develop new synthetic methods that can be utilized in the preparation of nitrogen heterocycles with demonstrated biological activity (anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-HIV, etc). The utility of these methods will be evaluated through their application to the synthesis of staurosporinone, heterocyclic analogs of staurosporinone, 3-pyrrolin-2-one analogs of Vioxx, and the aristolactam alkaloids. Staurosporinone is a potent inhibitor of protein kinase C (potential anti-cancer agent) and an important building block used in the synthesis of the indolocarbazole alkaloids.
Professor Kristin Slade, Biochemistry
Macromolecular Crowding and its Implication on Enzyme Kinetics Chromatin Modifications
The interior of cells consists of a heterogeneous mixture of macromolecules that are tens to hundreds of times more concentrated than the dilute conditions used in most in vitro studies. Since two structures cannot occupy the same region of space, a macromolecule will decrease the volume available to other macromolecules in the same solution. This steric exclusion of volume changes thermodynamic activities of molecules, slows diffusion, alters protein chemistry, and consequently has significant ramifications for cellular function. I am interested in how the densely packed interior of cells affects enzyme kinetics. More specifically, my focus involves enzymes that alter DNA structure in order to control gene transcription, because this has downstream implications in aging and many human diseases including cancer. Yet, even at fundamental level of understanding the basic science, many compelling questions arise: Do crowded cellular conditions enhance or reduce the rate of reactions? Are the effects of crowding enzyme specific,or are general trends observed? Do the crowded conditions of the nucleus help regulate gene expression and thus cellular function by controlling enzyme kinetics? I will work with students via chemical, analytical and biological techniques to address these questions. Due to the lack of methods currently available for quantifying kinetics inside cells, my work focuses on creating controlled in vitro environments containing crowding agents that mimic intracellular conditions.
Most of our biochemistry majors become actively engaged in research during their academic careers either during the semester or during the summer. Approximately 12-15 students do research on campus each summer with biochemistry faculty and another 20-25 students typically do research during the academic school year. Some students start doing research during their first year.
Students interested in pursuing careers in medicine also have access to clinical internships, skill training and direct patient care experiences through a special partnership with Finger Lakes Health, a local health system with 75 staff physicians and a broad range of primary and specialty services located just one mile from campus.
A list of students and their current and recent research projects is found below:
- Matt Burnett ’20 (Stennet): Studying Variations in Initial Set-up for Peptide Synthesis and Simulating Desalination Studies
- Jasmine Jackson ’20 (Slade): Macromolecular crowding on enzyme kinetics pertaining to citrate synthase
- Sarah Sveen ’20 (Stennet): Initial Investigations in how to Study Biofouling of Membranes during Desalination
- Charmaine Chung ’19 (Slade): Effects of macromolecular crowding on enzyme kinetics pertaining to alcohol dehydrogenase
- Andrew Herrmann ’19 (Straub): Evolutionary History of clpP, a Potential Pseudogene, in milkweeds (Asclepias)
- Marissa McFadden ’19 (Pelkey): Synthesis and Reactions of Tetramic and Tetronic Acids
- Jack Sherwood ’19 (Stennet): Developing a Protocol for Synthesizing Fluorescently-Labeled Peptides using Solid-Phase Peptide Synthesis Techniques
- Chris Stedry ’19 (Straub): Molecular evolution of the plastid accD gene in milkweeds (Asclepias; Apocynaceae)
- Nate Webster ’19 (Pelkey): Synthesis and Reactions of Tetramic and Tetronic Acids
- Michael Conroy ’18 (Cosentino): Biological and social drivers of chlamydia and gonorrhea infection rates
- Megan Lafferty ’18 (Mowery): Biological evaluation of potential VEGF-R inhibitors
- Shivam Tewari ’18 (Stennet): Investigations in how to Study Biofouling of Membranes during Desalination
- Tyler Fuller ’19 (Newby): Spectroscopic and computational studies of furan clusters.
- Emily Knipper ’19 (Bowyer/Cushman): Detecting endocrine disruptors in the Finger Lakes Region by histology of minnows.
- Sydney Smilen ’19 (Bowyer): Detecting endocrine disruptors in the Finger Lakes Region by histology of minnows.
- Michael Conroy ’18 (Slade): Crowding in cell-like environments alters diffusion and enzyme kinetics.
- Megan Lafferty ’18 (Pelkey): Synthesis and reactions of tetramic acids and tetronic acids.
- Namita Neerukonda ’17 (Mowery): Biological evaluation of simplified analogs of Protein Kinase C inhibitor staurosporine.
- Deborah Kwansare ’16 (Pelkey): Synthesis and reactions of tetramic acids.
- Micaela LoConte ’16 (Slade): Using macromolecular crowing to study yeast alcohol dehydrogenase (YADH) enzyme mechanism.
- Keshihito Murphy ’16 (Newby): Spectroscopic and computational studies of thiophene clusters.
- Chris Poggi ’16 (Slade): Macromolecular crowding and the steady-state kinetics of malate dehydrogenase.
- Fatima Saravia ’16 (Mowery): Examining the function of unique bacterial chemotaxis residues.
- Stephanie Cramer ’15 (Mowery): Examining the amino acids in putative bacterial motility receptors.
- Stephen Enos ’15 (Carle): FK228 (Romidepsin) analog “JB” as an apoptosis inducer in p53 deficient U937 cells.
- Janae Garofalo ’15 (Miller): Toward a solid-phase synthesis of HDAC inhibitor spiruchostatin A”
- Caitlyn Mitchell ’15 (Carle): Testing Xyzistatin, a novel depsipeptide, for histone deacetylase inhibitor activity on cancer cells.
- Catherine Downey ’14 (Pelkey): Synthesis and reactions of pyrrole weinreb amides.
- Jordan Kurbs ’14 (de Denus): Molecular wire candidates: synthesis and characterization.
- Guanqun Li ’14 (Carle): The role of chvB in attachment, HR, necrosis and biocontrol.
- Amy Van Loon ’14 (Pelkey): Synthesis and reactions of pyrrole weinreb amides.