Can we discover new antibiotics, and what effects do antibiotic-producing bacteria have on other members of a microbial community?
As the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are increasing, we are rapidly running out of last line drugs to treat infections. Nearly all of the antibiotics currently used in hospitals and clinics come from microorganisms that are commonly found in the soil. Students in this stream will isolate new antibiotic-producing bacteria from the soil right here on campus, determine the chemical nature of the drug(s) they produce, and use next generation sequencing technology to find out how the presence of antibiotic producers affects other bacteria in the community. At the stream’s conclusion it is possible that students will have both discovered a new antibiotic and determined its role in shaping the soil microbiome.
Credit Options: CH 204/CH 108 or BIO 206L/BIO 102C Lab Meeting Time: M 2-3
Can we develop new diagnostic techniques for use on the brain?
The Brain Pathology stream is concerned with the causes and effects of chronic diseases and acute conditions that affect the brain and central nervous system. We use genetic analysis, MR imaging, and standard clinical diagnostics to probe things like oncogenesis, white matter diseases, and traumatic brain injury. The students enrolled will learn skills routinely used in computational biology, biomedical imaging processing, functional brain mapping, biostatistics and other related fields of neuroscience. It will be common to work with both academic and clinical researchers in neurosurgery, genetics, psychology, and neuroscience.
Dr. Dionicio Siegel and Dr. Christine Hawkes
What biologically active compounds can be obtained from endophytes present in native Texas plants?
The primary objective of the Bioprospecting stream is to isolate, characterize, cultivate, process and screen unique fungal endophytes from Central Texas for the discovery of compounds with potential therapeutic applications.
The stream will span multiple sub-disciplines of biology and chemistry. Our primary focus is mycology, molecular biology, and organic chemistry.
While working towards the primary objective, we also investigate questions regarding the ecology of fungal endophtyes.
Credit Options: BIO 206L/BIO 102C or CH 204/CH 108 Lab Meeting Time: W 4-5 PM
Can we fingerprint complex mixtures using arrays of sensors?
The stream goal is to mimic the mammalian sense of taste by creating sensor arrays that can “fingerprint” complex mixtures, a technology that has potential environmental and clinical diagnostic applications. Currently, the stream uses peptide based sensing ensembles to differentiate wine varietals, a complex mixture composed of metabolic products from grapes. In order to increase the diversity of peptides used in the sensing ensembles, the stream will apply the technology of phage display. Students in the stream practice research skill in organic and analytical chemistry, including solid phase peptide synthesis, high-pressure liquid chromatography, UV-vis spectrophotometry, and indicator displacement assays in addition to basic and advanced biology and virology techniques.
Credit Options: CH 204/CH 108 or BIO 206L/BIO 102C Lab Meeting Time: M 3-4 PM
As the demand for therapeutic drugs increases, how are researchers working to better understand molecular interactions?
The design of small organic molecules that bind tightly and selectively to proteins is essential for the development of potent drugs that have minimal side effects. In this multidisciplinary stream, student researchers design and synthesize novel molecules that bind to proteins and learn to express, purify, and test the proteins of interest. The strength of binding between the protein and small molecule is tested by a technique called ITC, which provides data that can be used to elucidate the chemical features that allow for stronger intermolecular interactions, contributing to the field of drug discovery.