Thioredoxin in Bioremediation

Natalia’s Senior Honors Thesis in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology evolves out of her passionate commitment to contribute to the restoration of the environment, a matter she believes should be a priority for modern society. She will be investigating the molecular mechanisms of selenite detoxification in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, focusing on the function of the proteins thioredoxin and thioredoxin reductase in toxic metal biotransformation. The results of her research will lead to improved bioremediation of selenite-contaminated soil and water and, more broadly, to a better understanding of the practical use of bacteria in bioremediation of environments contaminated by toxic metals.

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Antibody Catalyzed Protein Folding

Sean’s project addresses two major questions in biochemistry: what is the nature of antibody catalysis, and what is the nature of transiently formed refolding intermediates. He is investigating whether antibodies that have been shown to catalyze conventional chemical reactions can be made specifically to catalyze a protein folding reaction. His project is based on the hypothesis that antibodies can recognize, bind, and stabilize high-energy intermediates of the refolding process, thus accelerating the rate of refolding.

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Establishment of a Kinetic Analysis Framework for the Activity of an RNase P Ribozyme

Kwa’s Senior Honors Thesis in Molecular and Cell Biology will investigate the RNase P ribozyme, which is one of many RNA enzymes being developed as promising gene-targeting reagents to cleave specific RNA sequences. Kwa’s research will establish a kinetic framework to analyze the catalytic mechanism of RNase P ribozyme to cleave a viral mRNA. By determining the ribozyme’s catalytic efficiency, he will provide insight into the engineering of RNase P for antiviral application, with potential therapeutic use in inactivating specific mRNA sequences of infectious viruses such as Herpes Simplex Virus and HIV. In addition to its implications for infectious disease control, Kwa’s research this summer will help him develop necessary skills to pursue his career goal of becoming a molecular biologist.

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Genetic Diversity Among Populations of Phellinus Swieteniae in Mangroves

Through a combination of field-work and laboratory research, Jeri’s project promises to make an important contribution to our understanding of-and our efforts to preserve-the planet’s extraordinarily rich biological diversity. This summer, Jeri will travel to Panama to collect samples of Phellinus swieteniae, a fungal pathogen of black mangroves from six spatially isolated mangrove forests located on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. While in Panama, Jeri will also have the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), one of the leading tropical ecology research institutes in the world, and to meet with leading scientists in the field of biogeography, her intended field of graduate study. During the following academic year, she will complete her research project at UC Berkeley, using modern DNA analysis techniques to determine the amount of genetic diversity that exists within and among the populations of fungi collected.

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The Biomechanics of Walking Backwards

Neil’s project will contribute to our understanding of the biomechanics of human locomotion. By studying backwards walking using human subjects on a treadmill, he hopes to discover how the inverted pendulum mechanism involved in walking is affected by reversing the direction in which human beings normally move. Through further quantitative analysis, Neil intends to determine which biomechanical factors set the metabolic cost of normal walking. The results of his research will have relevant implications for physical therapists and gait-disabled persons, for whom backwards walking is often used as a rehabilitation technique. This project will also help further prepare him for his intended career in biomedical research.

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