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Undergraduate Research and Creative Works

SuRPS 2017 Summer Research Projects

PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Brian Augustine (Biology)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Modification and characterization of the metallization of polymer surfaces with applications in biomedical devices

ABSTRACT:
This project is part of an ongoing study to understand how certain organic solvents can be used to activate polymeric surfaces to improve the adhesion of vapor deposited noble metal thin films such as Au and Pt which are technologically important in the microfabrication of polymer microdevices. Work on this project will answer the following broad question: Which range of polymers, solvents and metal interactions can be improved through the creation of a Lewis acid-base adduct between the polymer surface, the organic solvent, and the deposited metal? In order to address this question, a range of experimental and theoretical tools will be used to predict, design and optimize experimental conditions resulting in polymeric surfaces which promote improved metal adhesion. Successful adhesion of Au and Pt thin films have been demonstrated with poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) exposed to a variety of halogenated solvents. Polymer surfaces with a range of similar backbone and side-chain chemistries compared to PMMA will be explored, as will materials that have a different chemical composition. The patterning of polymer surfaces will be studied to determine if solvent activation methods can be used in conjunction with soft-lithographic techniques to produce patterned features. Students will interact with scientists from James Madison University, the University of Virginia and the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro on an ongoing basis. Students must have transportation available to Greensboro.

PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr, Meghan Blackledge (Chemistry)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Old Battle, New Weapons: Synthesis and evaluation of FDA-approved antidepressants and derivatives to
ABSTRACT:
Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is a leading cause of both hospital-and community-acquired infections, and has become increasingly recalcitrant to common antibiotic therapies. MRSA employs numerous methods to initiate and maintain active infections while evading the host immune system. These behaviors are known collectively as virulence traits and contribute to MRSA’s pathogenicity. We have identified an FDA-approved antidepressant that is capable of inhibiting both biofilm and b-lactam resistance phenotypes in MRSA. While it is clear that this compound interferes with MRSA virulence phenotypes, neither the precise molecular target(s) of this compound nor the important chemical features of the molecule are known. Research projects in the summer of 2017 will be focused on (1)synthesis and evaluation of derivatives for use as small molecule virulence probes and (2)identification and validation of the virulence networks targeted by our compounds. Significant progress in these two aims will help us develop a more complete mechanistic model of virulence regulation in S. aureus and its perturbation with our chemical probes.
PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Keir Fogarty Chemistry)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Characterization of Retroviral Gag-Cell Membrane Binding Interactions Using Fluorescence Microscopy and Spectroscopy
ABSTRACT:
Retroviruses, such as HIV, have a life-cycle which consists of two phases; an early phase, in which the virus infects a healthy host cell, and a late phase in which the infected cell produces more copies of the virus. In all retroviruses, the Gag structural protein plays a critical role in the assembly of new viruses from infected cells. Indeed, Gag-only expression systems produce non-infectious structural analogs to retroviruses, and thus represent an excellent, benign model system for the study of retrovirus assembly. There are many questions surrounding the early events in the retrovirus assembly pathway, particularly the transition of Gag structural proteins from monomeric cytoplasmic proteins to the cell membrane-bound skeletal structure of viral particles. In particular, the nature of Gag-membrane interactions involved in the transition remains poorly understood. The goal of my research is to investigate the Gag-membrane interaction equilibrium using total internal reflection fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy (TIRF-FFS). Findings from these studies have the potential to elucidate the mechanisms of viral assembly, providing new targets for drug discovery and insight into aspects of retroviral pathology.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Nicole Hughes (Biology)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Effects of seasonal leaf angle on physiology, biochemistry, and micrometeorology of the evergreen fern, Polystichum acrostichoides

ABSTRACT:
Polystichum acrostichoides, also known as Christmas fern, is an evergreen fern native to the eastern United States. In summer new fronds stand upright, bowing gradually through the late summer and fall and becoming completely flattened (prone) by December. The plant maintains photosynthesis in flattened leaves throughout the winter, until a new flush of leaves emerges in the spring. The objective of this project is to observe the consequences of this change in leaf angle on plant micrometeorology and stress physiology, in order to research its adaptive function (if any). We hypothesize that leaves of P. acrostichoides are predominantly upright during summer to maximize evaporative cooling and spore dispersal, while flattened leaf angles during winter promote trapping of heat (from the ground) and humidity (from the leaves) beneath the fronds, favoring enhanced stomatal conductance and photosynthesis during the winter. We have already conducted field experiments to test several of these hypotheses, including comparing leaf temperatures, photosynthesis, and evapotranspiration of naturally upright versus artificially flattened leaves during the summer, and naturally flattened versus artificially upright leaves during the winter. Our results appear to be consistent with our hypotheses, although they have not yet been formally graphed or statistically analyzed. During the 2017 summer we will analyze these data, and also quantify the effects of leaf angle on spore dispersal, and conduct photopigment analysis of upright versus flat leaf tissues, which we collected at the end of each experimental season (these are currently stored in the -80 freezer). This latter experiment will be done in order to quantify xanthophyll cycle pigments, which can be used as a biochemical proxy for abiotic stress.
PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Pamela Lundin (chemistry)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Development of the Sonogashira Catalyst-Transfer Polycondensation as a Method to Prepare Covalently Grafted Films with Anti-Microbial Properties


ABSTRACT:
This proposal aims to develop the nascent Sonogashira catalyst-transfer polycondensation (CTP) into a general method that can be used to prepare covalently-grafted PPE films with precise control for use in anti-microbial coatings and fibers. A graft-to approach will be used to attach the polymer to the surface, which requires immobilization of an initiator on the surface. This will accomplished by depositing a self -assembled monolayer (SAM) whose chain terminus is the active palladium initiator. Both a direct method and an indirect method of initiator functionalization will be investigated. Reaction of this SAM with a phenylene ethynylene monomers under appropriate reaction conditions will furnish a surface-grafted PPE film. Initial studies will focus on silica surfaces with palladium initiators and methoxy-functionalized monomers with both para- and meta-substitution. The SAMs will be characterized by AFM, UV-vis spectroscopy and contact angle measurements. The polymer films will also be characterized by AFM, and the thicknesses will be measured by a profilometer.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Heather Miller (Chemistry)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Investigating Human Tat-specific Factor 1’s Role in HIV-1 Gene Expression

ABSTRACT:
Tat-specific factor-1 is a transcription-splicing factor that assists in transcription and splicing of many human genes. This protein has also been identified as a host factor for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). The virus is thought to exploit the cellular roles of Tat-SF1 in order to express viral genes. Specifically, Tat-SF1 has been shown to alter the spliced and unspliced RNA levels of HIV-1 in HeLa cells. This human protein has two RNA recognition motifs in its sequence, where it may contact the viral RNA. Furthermore, potential Tat-SF1 binding sites have been mapped in the HIV-1 genome. Together, these observations lead us to investigateTat-SF1 binding to the viral genome. We hypothesize that if Tat-SF1 alters HIV-1 mRNA levels, then an interaction between Tat-SF1 and the viral genome should be detected. Tat-SF1 protein will be expressed and purified in E. coli, and HIV-1 RNA will be synthesized by in vitro transcription. Tat-SF1::HIV-1 complexes will then be analyzed by electrophoretic mobility shift assays or anisotropy assays. Roles in alternative splicing versus stability or export will be determined. These results will add to the body of knowledge surrounding this host protein’s role in HIV-1 gene expression.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Jackson Sparks (Biology)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Identifying receptors mediating importantinsect behaviors by measuring changes in sensory gene expression in response to single chemical sensory experiences

ABSTRACT:
I propose to rear multiple cohorts of vinegar flies, exposing each to a different chemical stimulus for 24 hours in chambers devoid of other chemical stimuli. These differing olfactory/gustatory experiences may cause changes in the pattern of gene expression, as measured by qRT-PCR,of a large family of receptor genes (ORs and GRs). Our hypothesis is that genes whose expression is most dramatically affected by intense exposure to a given chemical will correspond to the receptor previously shown to be responsive to that chemical, thus highlighting ligand/receptor pairs. This approach, if validated, would provide a convenient method to de-orphanize insect chemoreceptors and thus sidestep the need for gene knockout or transgenics to confirm receptor function. If paired with RNA-seq, this approach could also identify genes not currently known to be involved in the chemosensation of economically important chemicals like DEET.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Melissa Srougi (Chemistry)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Targeting of BRCA1/2 Mutant Human Breast Cancers Overexpressing NQO1 Using the Antitumor Quinone β-­Lapachone
ABSTRACT:
The overall goal of this proposal is to determine the efficacy of the novel quinone β­Lapachone (β-lap) in NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) expressing BRCA1/2 mutant breast cancers. β-Lap is a naturally occurring antitumor quinone that is selectively bioactivated in tumors expressing NQO1. NQO1 is constitutively overexpressed in a number of solid tumors including breast (~60%), non-­small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs) (>85%), and pancreatic cancers (~85%) compared to associated normal tissues.NQO1 metabolizes β­lap via a two­electron oxidoreduction, resulting in multiple rounds of redox cycling. β­Lap-­induced reactive oxygen species generation causes DNA base damage, that hyperactive PARP-­1 resulting in cell death due to NAD + and ATP loss. Interestingly, BRCA1/2 mutant breast tumors also overexpress NQO1. However, the efficacy of β-lap has not been evaluated in this subset of tumors. We hypothesize that sub-lethal doses of β-lap will induce low level DNA damage in NQO1 positive BRCA1/2 mutant breast tumors. Existing deficits in DNA repair caused by BRCA1/2 mutations in these cells will, therefore, selectively sensitize them to sub-­lethal doses of β-­lap resulting in lethality. The findings gleaned from our studies will provide insight into the mechanisms of β­lap­induced lethality in NQO1 expressing, BRCA1/2 mutant breast tumors to increase tumor response to therapy while decreasing normal tissue toxicity.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Kevin Suh (Biology)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
The possible role of a dietary phytochemical fisetin in inducing LNCaP prostate cancer cell death
ABSTRACT:
In the US, it is known that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will develop cancer in their lifetime. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the US. Malignant transformation of cells requires alterations in metabolism to satisfy the abnormal demands for energy and building blocks necessary for the synthesis of macromolecules. Fatty acid synthase (FASN) is the key enzyme for de

novo synthesis of fatty acids. FASN is often overexpressed in human cancers including prostate and its overexpression is associated with poor prognosis. Therefore FASN could be a potential therapeutic target in prostate cancer. Fisetin (3,7,3',4'-tetrahydroxyflavone) is a naturally occurring flavonoid commonly found in many fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, tomatoes and onions. Previously, we have shown that fisetin inhibits prostate cancer cell growth. In our preliminary studies, we observed that fisetin inhibits the expression of FASN and induces metabolic stress in prostate cancer cells. In this study, we will verify our observation and elucidate the mechanism of fisetin-induced inhibition of FASN and its effect on the proliferation of prostate cancer cells using LNCaP cells as a model system.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Aaron Titus (Physics)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Creating a simulation and custom-designed apparatus to study torque and angular momentum using quadcopter technology

ABSTRACT:
This project will create a simulation and an educational apparatus for students to study torque and angular momentum using quadcopter technology. The apparatus will consist of a single beam on a gimbal. The beam will have a quadcopter propeller and motor on each end. A raspberry pi, batteries, and motor controllers will be mounted on the beam. A computer interface will be created to control the angular speed of the motors. The beam will be able to pitch and rotate in response to the torques applied by the propellers to the beam. The apparatus will ultimately be deployed in a classroom setting where students will be able to adjust the magnitude and direction of the angular momentum of each propeller and thus experiment with the technology used to control quadcopters. With theoretical and experimental understanding, students should be able to use the torque and angular momentum to fully explain the operation of a quadcopter (which employs four propellers).
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Cynthia Vigueira (Biology)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Phylogenetic analysis and breeding for improved cultivars of Liatris species
ABSTRACT:
The genus Liatris (blazing stars or gayfeathers) is native to North America and contains one species that is cultivated as a garden ornamental. Little is known about the genetic relationships between the many species that make up this genus. We will use genetic markers that have been developed for the Asteraceae family to unravel the phylogeny of Liatris species. In addition to understanding the genetic relationships between these beautiful flowering plants, we will also begin a breeding program to develop improved garden cultivars in this group. During the course of this summer program, students will learn important laboratory skills, plant breeding techniques, and plant biotechnology techniques. All of these skills are marketable for future jobs, internships, or graduate programs. Students will also earn authorship on any manuscripts that result from this research.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Patrick Vigueira (Biology)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Breeding and genetic analysis of wild and cultivated varieties of Veronia (ironweed)
The numerous globally-distributed species of the genus Veronia (ironweed) are flowering plants that are appreciated for both their beauty and potential medicinal properties. In collaboration with the Mariana H. Qubein Arboretum & Botanical Gardens on the campus of High Point University, we will establish a Veronia breeding program with the goal of producing novel cultivars that are both aesthetically pleasing and ecologically friendly. Little is known about the genetic relationships among the ~1000 species that make up this genus. Using genetic markers that have been developed for the Asteraceae family, we will explore the genetic relationships among selected wild and cultivated varieties of Veronia. Students will learn highly marketable skills and techniques in molecular biology, plant breeding, and biotechnology.
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR(S):
Dr. Andrew Wommack (Chemistry)

TITLE OF PROPOSAL:
Merging copper and photoredox catalysis to improve Chan-Lam cross-coupling reactions
ABSTRACT:
The oxidative cross-coupling of aryl boronic acids with arylamines using copper-catalysis has been accomplished in moderate yields across an expanded substrate scope in the presence of a photoredox cocatalyst under mild aerobic conditions. This modified C−N cross-coupling reaction allows the incorporation of unactviated alkylamines to both electron poor− and electron-rich boronic acids under low photoredox cocatalyst loadings. While initial results demonstrate acceptable efficiency of the coupling with improved substrate scope, further research is needed to improve yields. In order to aid methodology development, further mechanistic investigations are proposed to illuminate the role of the photoredox catalyst in the copper catalytic cycle.

Contact Us

Dr. Joanne Altman, Director of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works

Phone: 336-841-9613
Email: urcw@highpoint.edu

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Athletic Training & ACL Injuries

Andrea Baellow, an athletic training major, shares her experiences performing undergraduate research on the relation of the hip to ACL injuries and their prevalence in younger females. Her experiential education at High Point University was supported by the state of the art Human Biomechanics & Physiology Lab, where she could apply what she has learned with hands-on experience.