Biomedical Engineering, Pre-med
Dr. Christina Bourne, Dr. Meena Muthuramalingam
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:
Toxin-Antitoxin systems are components found on bacterial plasmids and chromosomes that code for protein pairs. The toxins interact with cellular machinery and send the cell into a dormant growth state. This dormant state allows the cell to survive harsh conditions, such as antibiotic treatment, and can be reversed by interaction of the antitoxin with the toxin. My project examines the binding interaction between the ParD antitoxin and the ParE toxin using site-directed mutagenesis. I performed several point mutations on hydrophobic amino acids that were thought to be important to protein function, and examined the effect of these mutations on binding affinity. The goal is to determine which portion of antitoxin is critical to function because interrupting binding interaction would allow ParE to degrade the bacteria’s genomic DNA, eventually causing the cell to self-destruct. In conjunction with antibiotics, blocking the antitoxin would improve treatments for bacterial infections.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students:
Through my research experience, not only have I learned valuable lab techniques, I have also developed more general scientific skills, such as troubleshooting, and learning how to ask the right question. I want to help other undergraduates get involved in research because it will open so many doors for them. It’s a great way to figure out if academia is the right path, and it’s important to have research experience if you want to go into any sort of STEM field. I want other students to know how valuable an undergraduate research experience can be, and I want everyone to know that they should go for any lab position they are offered, even if it’s a little intimidating at first.
Awards and/or presentations:
Presentations:Site-Directed Mutagenesis of the ParDE Antitoxin to Examine Binding Interaction with ParE Toxin (presented at Great Plains Infectious Disease Meeting, 2017, and scheduled to present at NCUR 2018); Purification of Functional DNA Gyrase (FYRE poster session, 2016)Prototype of a Tourism App for the City of Arezzo, Italy (Mayor's office, Arezzo, 2017); Awards: Mentored Research Fellowship Scholar (2017), Dean’s Honor Roll for OU Gallogly College of Engineering (2016, 2017), National Merit Scholar (2015)