Chemistry Reports On Students' Research Internships

The NMU Chemistry Department reports that four students participated in summer research opportunities at the University of Notre Dame, Loyola University, Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University and the Michigan State Crime Lab.

Chemistry major Chloe Lewis completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program through the National Science Foundation. She worked with Aaron Timperman of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame on the fabrication of a small, portable microfluidic device that will be used in a novel method of pathogen detection and characterization. The devices utilize micro-scale analysis to improve detection speed and reduce the need for large volumes of sample and reagents. Lewis wrote, “The theme of this REU was ‘Analytical Chemistry for the Developing World,’ so all the research projects in our group were chosen for their potential to bring affordable methods and tools to chemists across the world. Through various seminars and discussions, I gained a greater sense of how the science that we do can have a profound impact in the global community.”

Biochemistry major Luke Soucie participated in a research internship that was part of the Discover Pharmacology Research Program at the Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill. The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) sponsored the program. Soucie wrote, “My research mentor was Dr. Bruce Cuevas of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics. He investigates cell-signaling pathways in order to better understand the mechanisms behind tumor cell proliferation and metastasis. I investigated the regulation of a regulatory protein kinase called MEKK2. This protein has been found to play a vital role in breast tumor cell metastasis and is a potential therapeutic target for a breast cancer therapy. Over the summer, I investigated the binding site of the only known regulator of MEKK2, paxillin. I demonstrated, for only the second time, that paxillin binds to the PB1 domain of MEKK2.  I also worked on various side projects like visualizing an MEKK2 associated phosphatase and investigating the effects of the estrogen receptor on MEKK2 product phosphorylation. I gained experience in techniques important for researchers like molecular cloning, electrophoresis, western blotting, immunoprecipitation and experimental design.”

Forensic biochemistry major Emily Ross had an internship through the Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program at the Ames Laboratory, a DOE facility at Iowa State University. She worked on two projects. The first was characterizing extracellular lipids in the blossoms of Arabidopsis thaliana. The lipid content is of interest because of the possibility of using plant lipids as a renewable biofuel. The second project was characterizing the anthocyanin content in leaves from ornamental plants in the Coleus family. Anthocyanins are important antioxidants in plants and provide protection against harmful UV radiation. When found in fruits and vegetables, these compounds also provide health benefits to humans. Ross had the opportunity to use a range of modern analytical chemistry techniques including mass spectrometry imaging and liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. As a result of the internship, she is planning to attend Iowa State University for graduate school.  

Another forensic biochemistry major, Caitlin Orr, had a summer internship in the Questioned Documents Division at the Michigan State Crime Lab in Lansing. She worked with Detective Lt. Mark Goff on a project to validate the use of digital imaging for an electrostatic detection device. Electrostatic detection is a nondestructive technique that can be used to reveal indentations or impressions in paper that may otherwise go unnoticed. The digital imaging of the results of an electrostatic detection measurement allows the results to be shared more easily between investigators and attorneys.        

Prepared By
Cassidy Hinshaw
Student Writer