Huntingdon Chemistry Students Conduct/Present Original Research
Montgomery, Ala.—Huntingdon College CHEM 446: Metals in Biological Systems students presented two original research presentations at the 2009 Joint Annual Research and Creative Activity and Nano-Bio Symposium at Alabama State University in March.
Kent Hagan, Class of 2010 (Biochemistry/Biology; Opelika, Ala.); Fe Gulledge, Class of 2009 (Biochemistry; Trussville, Ala.); A.J. Julian, Class of 2010 (Biochemistry; McCalla, Ala.); Kimberly Matthews, Class of 2009 (Biochemistry; Wetumpka, Ala.); and Julie Wahl, Class of 2010 (Biochemistry; Lebanon, Mo.) presented their research on “Conversion of a Protein into a Metalloprotein: Energetic and Conformational Studies of Oxytocin and Bovine Serum Albumin in the Presence of Transition-Metal Ions.” In this project, the undergraduate researchers studied how metals become incorporated into proteins and what happens to the energy and shape of the protein when metals are included. Working as a team similar to those formed in drug discovery laboratories, the students used computer modeling programs and energy calculation software to design new metalloproteins and to investigate their properties. The students found that iron is the metal most easily incorporated into proteins, resulting in dramatic changes in protein shape, folding, and energy. Other metals investigated were gold, rutheniuum, lead, copper, and tungsten. Students are continuing their work to include other metals and plan to present further research at the national American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco in 2010.
Hagan has received a summer research fellowship in cellular and molecular biochemistry at Auburn University this summer, where he will work on projects related to this research at Huntingdon. Hagan spent last summer as a National Science Foundation-Research Experiences for Undergraduates fellow at the University of Pittsburgh.
Kayla Bratcher, Class of 2010 (Biochemistry; Ashford, Ala.); Ben Marsella, Class of 2010 (Biochemistry; Dothan, Ala.); and Zachary Sealy, Class of 2010 (Biochemistry; Montgomery, Ala.) presented their research on the topic, “Energetic Studies of a ‘Metallointercalator’—Transition Metal Complexes Capable of Both DNA Binding and DNA Intercalating.” In this project, the students answered the question, “What would you call a molecule that could bind to DNA as well as unwind it?” The students invented a new word for such a molecule—a “metallointercalator.” For their research, the students designed a series of metal-containing molecules using computer modeling and mechanics software and then “docked” these molecules on a computer into spaces on DNA. Their results showed lower energies were achieved when the metal end of the molecule bound to DNA, compared to when the non-metallic end of the molecule slipped in between the base pairs of DNA (intercalating). The new class of molecules was named by the students as metallointercalators, indicating the dual role of such molecules.
Dr. Maureen Kendrick Murphy of Prattville, Huntingdon professor of chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was a co-author on both of these papers. Murphy was a member of the Class of 1978 at Huntingdon College.
All Huntingdon chemistry and biochemistry majors are required to participate in original undergraduate research in their junior and senior years via research-specific course work, as well as to present/publish their results at state, regional, or national venues. Combined, majors in the sciences represent one of the largest groups of students at Huntingdon. Placement rates into graduate and professional schools far exceed national averages.
Huntingdon College, grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the United Methodist Church, is committed to nurturing growth in faith, wisdom, and service and to graduating individuals prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Founded in 1854, Huntingdon is a coeducational liberal arts college. The College motto, “Enter to grow in wisdom; go forth to apply wisdom in service,” is inscribed in stone above the front door of John Jefferson Flowers Hall. Celebrating its centennial year in Montgomery this year, the campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.