September 17, 2009

Chemistry Professors Receive $200,000 National Science Foundation Grant

New equipment will enhance teaching and undergraduate research

Students and faculty in the chemistry department will soon have two new pieces of equipment available for their research, thanks to a Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation.

The $199,666 grant was acquired through the efforts of Yvonne Gindt, associate professor of chemistry; Dave Husic, Larkin Professor and head of chemistry; William Miles, professor of chemistry; and Jennifer Rutherford, assistant professor of chemistry.

The equipment is primarily intended for students working with faculty members on a one-on-one basis through independent studies, honors projects, and the EXCEL Scholars program. Additionally, more advanced chemistry and biochemistry students enrolled in physical chemistry and biochemistry laboratories will use the equipment as part of their laboratory experience.

The grant will allow for the purchase of an isothermal titration calorimeter (ITC), which is used to understand how molecules bind to proteins or to DNA, and a stopped flow mixer and spectrometer, which is used to study how chemical reactions occur.

“This equipment will give students further experience with state-of-the-art instrumentation commonly used in the industry,” Gindt says. “For example, they will use the ITC to measure drug binding to DNA–something done extensively in the pharmaceutical industry.”

The new equipment will be getting lots of use.

Gindt will be working with students to try to understand how the DNA enzyme photolyase recognizes and repairs lesions on DNA. Students working with Husic will study anhydrase, an enzyme that allows photosynthetic algae to use atmospheric carbon dioxide more efficiently. Students in Miles’ lab will be exploring the structure of pharmaceutical compounds such as manoalide, an organic marine product that is an extremely potent anti-inflammatory. Also, Mark Brown ’10 (Wilmington, Del.), a biochemistry major, and Katie Sokolowsky ’10 (Downingtown, Pa.), a mathematics major, will use the instruments while working on their honors theses.

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