Four Kalamazoo College students attended at the 2014 Experimental Biology Meeting: Amanda Bolles ’14, Chemistry; Rina Fujiwara ’15, Chemistry; Virginia Greenberger ’14, Chemistry; and Michael Korn ’14, Biology. Experimental Biology is a joint meeting of six different societies including the American Association for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) as well as societies for physiology, nutrition, pharmacology, pathology, and anatomy. The meeting provides a great opportunity for students to present their work and attend a variety of engaging scientific talks. More than 15,000 scientists attended the event in San Diego, Calif.
Bolles and Fujiwara presented their research findings during the Undergraduate Poster Competition and during the regular scientific session for ASBMB. Their research involves recent work completed in the laboratory of Professor of Chemistry Laura Furge. That work has shown that two different (but related) compounds inactivate P450 3A4, an enzyme in the liver and intestine that metabolizes (or processes) a major pharmaceutical drug. The titles of the Bolles and Fujiwara posters were, respectively, “5-Fluoro-2-[4-[(2-phenyl-1H-imidazol-5-yl)methyl]-1 piperazinyl]pyrimidine is a mechanism based inactivator of CYP3A4” and “Mechanism-based inactivation of human CYP3A4 by a piperazine-containing compound.” The ASBMB competition includes posters of some 300 students from a variety of college and universities across the country. One grand prize award was presented to a student in each of four research categories (bioenergetics/protein structure, cell biology/developmental biology, DNA/gene regulation, and immunology/microbiology/neurobiology). Bolles won the $500 grand prize in the bioenergetics/protein structure category and was recognized the next day before an audience of hundreds of scientists, educators, and students at the award lecture for outstanding contributions to education. Bolles’s presentation derived from her Senior Individualized Project (SIP), which will be published later this year along with results from co-author Fujiwara.
Greenberger conducted her SIP research in the laboratory of Professor of Chemistry Regina Stevens-Truss. The abstract she presented at the meeting was titled “Bacterial Action of Novel Cationic Peptide Sequences.” As more antibiotic resistance is observed in patients, new sources of antibiotics are being investigated, including short peptide sequences. Greenberger’s work in the Truss lab was aimed at determining the antibiotic activity (and the precise mechanisms of action that yielded the activity) of two newly studied peptide sequences.
Dr. Furge also presented a poster in the ASBMB regular scientific session based on work started last year by Parker de Waal ’13. The work began as part of a course assignment in Furge’s “Advanced Biochemistry” course and grew into an elegant computational study of structural differences between select variants of the drug-metabolizing enzyme P450 2D6. de Waal used molecular dynamics methods to show how subtle differences in the enzyme structure can help explain differences in the metabolizing abilities of the enzymes. The study is being completed by Kyle Sunden ’16. While in San Diego, Furge spent an afternoon at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy at the University of California-San Diego discussing the implications and approach of the study with other scientists in this field.
Korn attended the American Physiological Society (APS) portion of the Experimental Biology meeting. He presented the results of his SIP work (conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Mendias at the University of Michigan) in the APS Student Poster Competition. Korn’s abstract received the David Bruce Outstanding Undergraduate Abstract Award. The title of his presentation was “Simvastatin reduces myosteatosis following chronic skeletal muscle injury.”
The future is promising for all four of these outstanding student researchers. In the fall, Bolles will enter the University of Michigan Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences; Greenberger will matriculate to the chemistry department at Pennsylvania State University to begin work on her Ph.D; Korn will attend the University of Michigan Medical School; and Fujiwara will complete her SIP with Furge this summer. She plans to attend graduate school after her June 2015 graduation from K.
Professors Furge and Truss are both members of the ASBMB and attend the annual meeting each year. Truss also directs a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded workshop for area high school science teachers in connection with the annual ASBMB meeting. This year’s workshop attracted more than a dozen local teachers who learned science and teaching strategies to use in their classrooms. Attendees at the workshop are also eligible for mini-grants to support further development of their teaching after the workshop. A recent article describes the impact of this workshop (which is in its fourth year).
In other meeting news, the Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award was given jointly to President Freeman Hrabowski III and Professor Michael Summers of University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Professor Summers was the SIP mentor to Erran Briggs ’14 and has worked closely with Professor Truss on the Professional Development and Minority Affairs Committees of ASBMB. Professor Summers also visited K’s campus in 2010 as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Guest Scholar Lecturer. Given the connections, and important work of Summers and Hrabowski, Professor Truss arranged for Bolles, Fujiwara, and Greenberger to interview Summers for Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership’s Praxis Center. Following the interview, Summers treated the students and Truss to lunch overlooking the San Diego Harbor marina! Notes from the interview will be posted on the Praxis website.
Travel to ASBMB for Bolles, Fujiwara, and Greenberger was supported by grants from the Provost Office, the Heyl Foundation (Greenberger), and the ACSJL. Korn’s travel to the meeting was sponsored by grant funds from his SIP advisor and the University of Michigan. Furge and Truss were supported by the Hutchcroft Endowment as well as their NIH and NSF grants, respectively. Next year’s Experimental Biology Meeting will occur in Boston, Mass.