Synthesis and Application of L-phenylalanine-4′-azobenzene

Hello! My name is Marshall Padilla, and I am a chemistry major and sophomore here at the College. I will be working with Dr. Young in the Chemistry Department to develop an unnatural amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which in turn, are the workhorses of the cell. There exists twenty natural amino acids; but recently, researchers have began synthesizing unnatural amino acids. My amino acid (let’s call it AzoPhe for short) has a very peculiar property: when AzoPhe comes into contact with a specific wavelength of light, part of the molecule actually shifts, a feature called photoisomerability. This feature is useful, because when AzoPhe is inserted into a protein, and a specific wave length of light is shined on it, the amino acid will deactivate the protein. AzoPhe could also be utilized to block ion channels, which are important proteins that regulate ion concentration. After creating this amino acid, I will (hopefully) insert it into a protein called GFP, which is a fluorescent protein. If I successfully insert the amino acid into specific locations (residues) of the protein, I will be able to activate and deactivate the protein’s ability to fluoresce via AzoPhe’s photoisomerability. The ability to control a protein offers a powerful medical tool, as the misregulation and misexpression of proteins is often the root of health conditions.

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Hi, I’m David McPherson and I’m doing research this summer with Charles Center funding.

The American chestnut used to be a dominant species of eastern forests in the US. It composed a significant portion of the canopy, and its nuts provided food for a variety of creatures, from rodents to humans. The introduction of the chestnut blight, which eliminated the nearly all canopy American chestnut trees, pre-dates modern forest ecology, and consequentially the significant impact the species had on the forest is not known. The chestnut is a flagship tree species, and for decades numerous groups have been trying to find ways to develop blight-resistant trees to reintroduce to the wild. For the reintroduction of blight-resistant trees to succeed, it is necessary to understand the ecology behind the chestnut. Some populations in New England have, so far, been spared the blight due to both isolation and the cold winter temperatures. While the blight has a presence in some populations, it has not yet been able to completely upset the ecology of these forests as it has done in warmer climates. This unique situation enables the modern study of forests containing chestnut trees.

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Understanding the Relationship Between Marginalization, Geography, and Social Arrangements

Hey there! My name is Brooke Huffman and I am a rising senior here at the college. This summer, working in a small community in Nicaragua, my research will focus on the relationships between marginalization, geography, and social arrangements. I want to explore how the presence of natural resources in a community affects interpersonal relationships for those nearest or farthest from the resource. Further, I would like to discern the influence of topography, terrain, and physical proximity of individuals on the social arrangements between them. My methodology will entail face-to-face interviews, social network analysis (SNA), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data collection.

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DTRA Analysis in Chaguite, Nicaragua


Since conversations about community development work are rife with uncertainty scholars working from many different angles to develop theories of community engagement and capacity building, refining ways of measuring project efficacy.  My own experience working with an isolated and impoverished community in Nicaragua has shed light on the realities of community development work, and on the impact ‘aid’ can have on its  beneficiaries. Witnessing the impact of more traditional development projects in the community, for example, a local university who delivered household cisterns one year ago that are already falling apart, has sparked an essential question is my mind: what effects do new resources in poor communities have on the existing community organization? This summer, I hope to explore this query by operationalizing the idea ‘social infrastructure’, therefore measuring its variance over time. By compiling a comprehensive, granular picture of a marginalized community’s social organization, I can not only test the efficacy of one project’s work, but can also contribute to the growing body of knowledge of social infrastructure as it relates to community development.

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Do the chemicals found in plastic have an effect on our endocrine system?

My name is Cyril Anyetei-Anum. I am a rising junior and a Neuroscience major double minoring in Biochemistry and Chinese. I plan to someday earn a PhD in the biomedical sciences. For this summer I will be conducting research here at the College in Dr. Lizabeth Allison’s research laboratory. I will be researching a chemical that has received world-wide attention, even causing certain countries to ban its use in the production of plastic consumer products, Bisphenol A. Bisphenol A, or more commonly known as BPA has been known to cause controversy in the U.S. as to whether or not it is harmful to our bodies. My work for the entirety of this summer is to come closer to finding an answer to this question. In order to determine BPAs effect on our bodies, I will not be asking people to start consuming copious amounts of BPA. Instead, I will be exposing eukaryotic cells to BPA and then looking at them through a microscope. I will be conducting multiple trials of this experiment to hopefully obtain results that will bring me one step closer in informing the U.S. about this controversial chemical.