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Chemistry Projects

Structural Characterization of Lysyl Oxidase
Dr. Karlo Lopez

Lysyl oxidase is a copper-dependent enzyme that plays a key role in the final crosslinking step of collagen and elastin. Although this enzyme is important in biological systems very little is known about the structure of the enzyme. During this four-week project, REVS-UP participants will learn how to use DNA to make lysyl oxidase in vitro, make mutations to the enzyme and evaluate the effects of those mutations, and grow protein crystals.

Inhibition of catechol-O-methyltransferase in colon cancer cells to enhance the anti-cancer activity of food-derived anthocyanins
Dr. Sarah Forester

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States for both men and women. Consumption of a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, may help prevent this disease. Anthocyanins are a class of phenolic compounds that contribute to the color of foods such as strawberries, pomegranates, and grapes. These compounds have been shown to reduce the incidence of colon cancer, yet they are heavily metabolized in the body, limiting their anti-cancer activities. Specifically, anthocyanins are methylated by catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), transforming them into less bioactive compounds. COMT activity can be inhibited by a drug called entacapone. This drug is used to improve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease patients, yet it could also be used to improve the anti-cancer effects of food-derived anthocyanins. The purpose of this project is to test if entacapone can enhance intracellular levels and anti-cancer activity of anthocyanins in the Caco-2 colon cancer cell line by inhibiting COMT. Cyanidin-3-glucoside and delphinidin-3-glucoside (anthocyanins) will be used to inhibit Caco-2 cell viability in the absence or presence of entacapone. Caco-2 cells will be cultured in the lab and incubated with the test compounds. Cell viability will be measured using a spectrophotometer-based method. Additionally, high-performance liquid chromatography will be used to determine if entacapone can enhance the intracellular levels of cyanidin-3-glucoside and delphinidin-3-glucoside. The results from this project could show that the bioavailability and bio-efficacy of anthocyanins may be increased by co-consumption of clinically-used medications such as entacapone.

Examination of Plant Natural Products.
Dr. Roy Lafever

Capsaicin, the priciple pungent substance in peppers (Capsicum sp.) has become an important commercial product due to applications in agriculture and medicine. The focus of this year's research will be to examine several ellicitors as potential modulators of capsaicin production. Both chemical and biological ellicitors will be tested to determine the effect on capsaicin production.

Chemistry and Sound
Dr. David Saiki

Interested in learning about how one can use sound to study materials? In this project students and teachers will learn about acoustic resonance spectroscopy a new technique that has recently been utilized to study mixtures and solutions. In this technique, we send programmed sound pulses through a quartz rod and analyze the digitized data using computer programs. Students and teachers will learn how this technique works and will acquire data of real world materials such as, oatmeal, milk, and ferrofluids. Students and teachers will also learn how to use computers to analyze the experimental data. This project will also work to build circuits using Adruino circuit technology.

Practical Applications for Introducing Stimulating Science in the Classroom
Drs. Hudson and Pawluk

This project will develop experiments to meet the core standards in science while at the same time make teaching and learning the fundamentals of science more approachable and fun. We will focus on designing hands-on experimental procedures that utilize inexpensive and readily available materials to complement the science curriculum of participating teachers. Teachers will gain experience in implementing experimental procedures in the classroom so their students will have the opportunity to do science instead of just read about science. Teachers from grades K-8 are particularly encouraged to apply. High school students who join this project will gain valuable experience working in a lab and will learn techniques for chemical handling and lab safety.