B.S., Chemistry, Southampton College of Long Island University
Ph.D., Biochemistry, Stanford University
My laboratory is interested in studying protein polymerizing systems. Two general areas that we are exploring are: (1) polymerizing systems for biomaterials design; and (2) polymerizing systems as models for protein aggregative disease.
We are interested in the creation of novel biomaterials. We have focused on using simple protein structural motifs as models for creating 1D polymers that can be decorated with different chemical functionalities to create electronically conducting materials. We have used both coiled coils and hairpins as building blocks to create polymers in the nanoscale size range. Incorporation of porphyrin derivatives (both by covalent and noncovalent approaches) is being explored to impart electronic functionality. We synthesize peptides on the order of 21-35 amino acids in length to study biomaterial properties. Students can expect to use sophisticated biophysical tools such as circular dichroism spectroscopy, analytical ultracentrifugation, atomic force microscopy, and dynamic light scattering, to characterize the structure of these peptides. These projects are highly interdisciplinary efforts involving collaborations with faculty in the Chemistry, Physics, and Math Departments here at Haverford College.
We are also interested in understanding how nucleotide repeat sequences, when expressed, result in protein aggregation in diseases such as Huntington's Disease, Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, and Fronto-Temporal Dementia. We are interested in developing a detailed understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the protein aggregation underlying these diseases. We take advantage of recently developed techniques in analytical ultracentrifugation to characterize protein aggregation in crude extracts using D. melanogaster and C. elegans transgenic model systems, and will be complemented by other techniques in order to correlate in vivo aggregation with aggregation seen in such crude extracts. Such techniques include confocal and fluorescence microscopies, and various gel electrophoresis techniques (Western, SDD-AGE). We are working closely with colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Colorado Boulder, who are expert in the techniques and the animal model systems that we are using.