Student-faculty research targets drug development, pollution clean-up, imaging and more
Sixteen Biology, Chemistry and Chemistry-Kinesiology majors collaborated with a team of Chemistry professors on summer research aimed at antiviral, antibacterial and cancer drug development, pollution clean-up, cell and tissue imaging, and ways to invigorate general chemistry lab.
A record 16 Biology, Chemistry and Chemistry-Kinesiology majors spent 10 weeks last summer collaborating on research with Chemistry professors Dana Ferraris, Peter Craig, Stephanie Homan and Michael Polen.
Their investigations spanned antiviral, antibacterial and cancer drug development, pollution clean-up, cell and tissue imaging, and even ways to invigorate general chemistry lab. They worked hard, learned a lot and shared more than a few laughs, thanks to McDaniel’s student-faculty collaborative research program.
The program provides students free housing and meals plus a stipend to make it possible for all students to participate. The research is supported through the generosity of the college’s donors, who are committed to providing authentic and transformative research experiences to students.
For some of the students, entering a chemistry research lab was a step or two beyond their comfort zone. But they took a chance – took those steps – and found themselves listed as authors with their professors on scientific papers.
Their papers were accepted by the American Chemical Society (ACS) for presentation at the premier chemistry association’s annual conference in Philadelphia. They planned to present and then to enjoy dinner at Yards Brewing Company’s Taproom restaurant owned by McDaniel alum Tom Kehoe ’88.
Then COVID-19 gripped the nation. ACS was cancelled. There would be no presentations. But regardless, each and every one of the students now has a research experience on their resume. And that’s no small accomplishment.
Conducting research in chemistry was a learning experience for senior Biology major Makayla Patterson, who had only taken introductory chemistry classes before the research.
“This research prepared me well for higher level chemistry classes and was a great opportunity for me, as I hope to go to medical school,” says Patterson of Colorado Springs, Colo., whose research was aimed at development of a metallodrug with antiviral activity. “Dr. Craig was great and sat with me to explain things and teach me new lab techniques.”
Kaylee Holliger, a senior Biology major from Forest Hills, Md., worked with senior Chemistry-Kinesiology major Megan Henderson from East Windsor, N.J., in Chemistry professor Dana Ferraris’ lab on design, synthesis and evaluation of a potential drug that could inhibit tumor formation.
“Both of my student groups worked on designing and synthesizing inhibitors for PARP10, which has been recently implicated in tumorigenesis, the transformation of healthy cells into tumor cells,” Ferraris says. “We are at the very earliest stages of validating PARP10 as a drug discovery project so that pharma will take notice and pay some more attention to it.
“The molecules that we make are being used by molecular biology and biochemistry labs across the world to support this.”
The experience made it clear to Holliger how much she enjoyed the lab setting – and she found a whole new level of understanding for organic chemistry.
“It was also a very self-fulfilling experience, because we are making compounds that have never been made before – ever! Which is pretty cool,” Holliger says.
Of course, more than chemical bonds form when more than a dozen students spend the summer sharing labs and the experience of doing research.
“It was a lot of fun!” says Holliger. “I became friends with the other students on campus that summer that I may not have met otherwise.”
The research projects and papers:
Chemistry professor Dana Ferraris’ students worked on research involving PARP10, which has been shown to play a role in the transformation of healthy cells to tumor cells. Inhibition of this process could potentially prevent the formation of new tumors.
“Design, synthesis and evaluation of bicyclic derivatives of PARP10” by Megan Henderson, a senior Chemistry-Kinesiology major from East Windsor, N.J., and Kaylee Holliger, a senior Biology major from Forest Hills, Md.
“Computer-aided design and synthesis of PARP10 inhibitors” by Mike Lemke, a senior Biology major from Westminster, Md., and Hannah Ravenscroft, a senior Chemistry-Kinesiology major from Berryville, Va.
Chemistry professor Peter Craig’s students researched compounds that show potential in environmental cleanup as well as antiviral and antibacterial activity.
“Constructing Co3+/Ni2+Schiff base zinc finger inhibitors” by Makayla Ann Patterson, a senior Biology major from Colorado Springs, Colorado; Vanessa Velez, a senior Chemistry major from Miramar, Fla.; and Benjamin England, a Chemistry graduate from Gambrills, Md.
“Inserting Cr3+ or Co3+ ions to mediate the binding of group 12 ions with a chelator: Ferris wheel project” by Kayla Leonard, a senior Biology and Chemistry double major, Hazle Township, Pa.; John Schaeffer, a senior Chemistry major from Hampstead, Md., and Brandon Busick, a senior Chemistry major from Sykesville, Md.
Chemistry professor Stephanie Homan’s students worked on developing bio-compatible fluorescent materials for use in cell and tissue imaging. They synthesized a novel water soluble quantum dot nanocrystal that is nontoxic and soluble in water.
“Biocompatible cadmium selenide quantum dot nanocrystals for in vivo imaging” by Patrick Keane, a junior Chemistry major from Germantown, Md.; Matthew Ulrick, a junior Chemistry major from Owings, Md., and Nico Fair, a junior Chemistry major from Odenton, Md.
Chemistry lecturer Michael Polen’s research students took on two projects. They explored the little known dynamics of a reaction that changes colors from green to red to yellow, like a traffic light. The cool thing is the reaction can cycle back to green simply by shaking it. The group also took on a project to improve and modernize general chemistry lab to reduce hazardous waste and boost the wow factor with labs to synthesize nanoparticles and create and analyze bars of soap.
“Exploring the kinetics of the traffic light reaction: Complex and poorly defined system” by Alena Villanueva, a junior Chemistry major from Gaithersburg, Md.; Jonah Ruskin, a junior from Kensington, Md.; Phillip King, a sophomore from Frederick, Md., and Harley White, a junior from Silver Spring, Md.
“Rethinking the general chemistry labs: Modernizing, developing, and greening the general chemistry lab curriculum” by Phillip King, a sophomore from Frederick, Md., and Harley White, a junior from Silver Spring, Md., with Alena Villanueva, a junior Chemistry major from Gaithersburg, Md., and Jonah Ruskin, a junior from Kensington, Md.