Effects of C5 Protein on Interactions between RNase P Ribozyme and a Model mRNA Substrate

For his Senior Honors Thesis in Molecular & Cell Biology, Umair will investigate the effects of a protein co-factor on the interactions between RNase P ribozyme and a model mRNA substrate. His research will deepen our understanding of how the protein co-factor affects the sequence-specific ribozyme’s structure and activity as it cleaves an mRNA encoding thymidine kinase of herpes simplex virus 1. By revealing how the ribozyme interacts with the viral mRNA, Umair will provide insight into the engineering of sequence-specific ribozymes as antiviral therapeutic agents, with important applications for the treatment of infectious viral diseases.

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Altering the Specificity of IDH by Directed Evolution

John plans to alter the specificity of a well-characterized enzyme (IDH) from its natural substrate to a close relative (IPM) by using a process called directed evolution via random mutagenesis. Challenging a holy grail in biochemistry, John will attempt to change the specificity of the enzyme without losing its catalytic power. Although past attempts at rational protein design have produced only limited success, random mutagenesis is a promising new technique in which evolution that normally takes millions of years is compacted into a few months. John’s research will lead to a better understanding of the features that are important in enzyme/substrate interactions and will enable future researchers to better engineer proteins that will have direct socially beneficial applications.

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Biochemical Control of Fruit Ripening and Senescence

Ethylene acts as a unique gaseous plant hormone that is essential for fruit ripening; it is also associated with a variety of aging processes in plants, known as senescence. Sae Hee intends to investigate how the key enzyme (ACC synthase) in the biosynthesis of ethylene functions in order to find an effective inhibitor of this enzyme, thereby providing a means for biochemical control of the fruit ripening and plant aging process. The resulting research will be presented as her Senior Honors Thesis in Chemistry and will have direct applications for the agricultural industry.

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Enzyme Activation in Organic Solvents: Surfactant - Assisted Solubilization

Michael will investigate the catalytic activity of enzymes solubilized in organic solvents using a technique called surfactant-assisted hydrophobic ion pairing. By furthering our understanding of the factors that effect enzyme function in non-aqueous media, Michael’s research will enable him to design a system whereby enzyme activity in such media is optimized. The results with have important practical applications in this novel branch of biotechnology. Michael plans to present his research at the National Meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers next year.

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Wearable Virtual Keyboard: Acceleration Sensing Glove

An Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major, John’s research interests are in the rapidly exploding area of wearable computing, a rubric that includes palm pilots, pagers and cell phones. His goal is to design and improve a virtual keyboard for a personal electronic device called the Acceleration Sensing Glove. John has already designed a crude prototype of the glove, featured in Science News and Wired Magazine, that can be used as a mouse in a Microsoft Windows environment and can translate at least 64 different hand gestures into symbols. He plans to make the glove even more user-friendly by designing and integrating a MEMS accelerometer coupled with wireless data transmission and an analog-to-digital converter in an approximately 1/4 square-centimeter package, resulting in a fully functional virtual keyboard with 36 alpha-numerical keys. John proposes to test the glove’s usability and effectiveness with human users, as well as to present his research […]

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Direct Measurement of Time Reversal Symmetry Violation in a P-wave Superconductor

Which way does time flow? Could time really be flowing backwards, and our perception of time passing forward be purely a matter of perspective? Physical phenomena that are asymmetric under time reversal have shown that time must flow forwards, and the discovery of such phenomena in different environments opens the door for new experiments and a better understanding of the nature of the universe. By directly observing the intrinsic angular momentum of a high-quality sample of strontium ruthenate crystals, Tom intends to demonstrate time reversal symmetry breaking (T-violation) in a macroscopic quantum system, confirming the existence of an as-of-yet undiscovered but theoretically predicted p-wave superconductor. Such a direct observation will allow for many new experiments, including the quantum mechanical interference of two macroscopic systems that violate time reversal symmetry. The resulting research will be presented as his Senior Honors Thesis in Physics.

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