Abstract: Pollen Magnetofection in Mimulus

The overall methodology for my experiment is to develop a way to transform the genetic material in the pollen of Mimulus, a flowering species of plants. Traditionally, plant transformation is achieved by genetically altering the developing ovule. In mimulus, however, the ovule is very difficult to genetically edit. The alternative option, then, would be to edit the genetic material of the pollen, that said, much less work overall has focused on editing the DNA of pollen. Researchers have had success using a method called pollen magnetofection for other species – but not mimulus. In this method, DNA strands are loaded with magnetic nanoparticles and then drawn into the pollen grains through a magnetic field. The goal of my research is to further develop this method and demonstrate its success on Mimulus in order to improve Mimulus’s ability to act as a model for understanding plant hybridization. To achieve this goal, I will create a buffer solution to allow the pollen to germinate, introduce a green fluorescent protein into the mimulus genome using magnetofection, and then pollenate milulus with the genetically modified pollen and observe the fluoresing offspring. At the end of my project I will have substantiated a new, more efficient protocol for genetically modifying Mimulus. The applications of this protocol extends into a variety of fields, specifically useful for research into plant hybridization to address the growing need for hybrid crops in agriculture. Future research with this protocol could be used to select for specific genes, such as those controlling size or pattern, and has further application for breeding crops which produce more food.

Editing Genetic Mutations – CRISPR/Cas-9 Protein (Abstract)

My project during the summer will focus on this method of gene-editing by looking at the properties of the Cas9 protein, a dimeric RNA-endonuclease complex that is responsible for targeting and cleaving select DNA in both natural and artificial CRISPR/Cas systems (Cavanagh, 2014). Scientists have discovered the natural role of the  Cas9 protein is to cleave the foreign genetic material that is introduced as bacteria are infected with viral DNA and RNA (Doudna, 2014). There has been research conducted on transferring this CRISPR/Cas9 system from bacteria and using it to edit deleterious mutations out of the genomes of other organisms (Kennedy, 2015). In order to control and observe the activity of the Cas9 protein, I will need to site-specifically label Cas-9 using unnatural amino acids (UAAs). UAAs are the synthetic analogs of the twenty naturally occurring amino acids. This means that UAAs  can provide unique chemical functionality not found in the canonical twenty (Young, 2010). UAA technology is promising when it comes to labeling proteins as it allows for a high level of  labeling of the protein that is not achievable using traditional techniques. Ultimately, my overall goal of the project is to utilize UAA technology to alter Cas9 activity by controlling which plasmids the protein binds to via loading specific RNA sequences into the immobilized protein. I hope to synthesize the research within the lab into future implications of treatment of genetic disease as the CRISPR-Cas9 system has a lot of potential in treating a range of medical conditions that have genetic components.

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Abstract:The synthesis of a pyrrolodiketopiperazine and its derivatives

The goal of my research is the synthesis of a pyrrolodiketopiperazine through sequential aldol, pyrrole condensations. A pyrrole is a useful molecule and has many known properties that allow it to be a great reactive material. It is a very common structure to see in natural products and the derivatives of pyrroles have many known biomedical properties, including antiviral and anticancer activity. It is stable on its own but is also quite versatile in other forms.[1] In addition, diketopiperazine is another useful molecule that is frequently used and seen in natural molecules. They are commonly used in research because they can be manipulated into many things from their basic structure and they have biological activity.[2] The desired product for my research is a ring system which fuses these two structures together into the molecule pyrrolodiketopiperazine. The combination of these two molecules creates a structure which has fascinating connections to natural products and allows the synthesis of these biomolecules in an easier way. The active properties of this core would allow me to move forward to synthesizing known natural products used in medicine as well as produce an effective reaction progression for this process. The advancement of the current procedure is to create a multi-step process that will effectively produce some actual, known structures that are found in nature which could be beneficial to multiple areas of chemistry. The creation of an easier and more efficient pathway to this core structure would be beneficial, as pyrroles and diketopiperazines are sought after materials for the synthesis of many molecules.

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Traumatic Stress and Risk Versus Resilience in First Generation College Students

First generation students tend to have lower rates of college completion. Why is this the case? Well before diving in any further, first generation students vary in definition, but for research purposes, can be defined as students whose parents did not graduate from a 4-year college. One factor that might contribute to these lower rates of persistence involves traumatic and stressful experiences. The study I’m conducting this summer will therefore investigate 1) the rates of exposure to trauma in FG students and 2) the effects of the trauma on resilience of FG students.

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