Current Projects

Students in the Barker laboratory are investigating a class of innate immune proteins called pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that bind to DNA and their role in immune responses to viral infection. Members of the Barker lab are currently examining the role of inhibitory proteins and location of microbial stimuli on PRR signaling. As our PRRs of interest and DNA Damage Response proteins both bind DNA, a major focus of the lab is on understanding interactions between DNA Damage and the immune response to viral infection.

The Knowles Lab is investigating neuronal degeneration in several experimental models of Alzheimer’s disease. Using both primary cortical cultures and rats exposed to amyloid beta and various stressors to produce oxidative stress, the lab is testing several key pathways that might block the loss of neurons and synapses which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. These pathways include metabotropic glutamate receptor 4, the P75 receptor and brain derived neurotrophic factor, and protein kinase C epsilon. In addition, the lab is examining whether methylene blue, a drug currently in clinical trials, influences tau protein and axon outgrowth.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when antibiotics become ineffective and can no longer prohibit microbial growth. To address this issue, researchers attempt to discover new antibiotics with new structures. A new series of antibacterial compounds were discovered at Drew. My project will focus on the synthesis of an analog of these compounds in order to understand the antibacterial structure activity relationship.

Teixobactin consists of a ten amino acid chain that is synthesized by a non-ribosomal peptide synthetase. This summer we are proposing the use of known biosynthetic methylation inhibitors to generate the des-methyl phenylalanine analogue of teixobactin that ideally will result in a new potent compound. To generate the des-methyl phenylalanine analogue, we will add various known methylation inhibitors to the growing culture, including sinefungin, aminopterin, amethopterin, DL-ethionine, or D-methionine and use LCMS to analyze our fermentation samples.

One in five Americans age 65 and older fall victim to financial abuse and, in sum, are robbed of more than $3 billion a year. This makes it very important to learn more about what makes this older population increasingly vulnerable. In my work, I propose that stereotypes about aging (e.g., forgetful and vulnerable vs. wise and experienced) affect older adults’ financial decision making abilities. My hope is that my research will provide insight about how to make this population better, more cautious financial decision makers in order to decrease their risk of financial abuse.

Visual sensory neurons are driven by different visual features, such as onset of light or orientation. We will simulate the population activity of these neurons, by acquiring images with a webcam, performing biologically-plausible image-processing algorithms, and displaying the outputs with flashing LED’s.

The tumor suppressor protein p53 is inactivated in almost all human cancers and in 50% of cancers inactivation is due to mutation in p53. Small molecules have been reported to restore tumor suppressor activity in mutant p53, however, they are yet to be developed as therapeutics. Our laboratory, in collaboration with Dr. Ronald Doll’s laboratory  is working to identify novel molecules that will reactivate mutant p53. Specifically our laboratory develop various biological assays and use them to screen and characterize small molecules which are synthesized in Dr. Doll’s laboratory.

Past Projects

Student Faculty Mentor Project Title
Kayla Smalling and Gisselle Rojas Dr. Kimberly Choquette Synthesis and optimization with Samarium diiodide (SmI2)
Hailey Stine Dr. Neal Connors (RISE) Production and purification of the antibiotic kibdelomycin – and its structural analogues – produced by Kibdelosporangium sp. 
Aileen Dunn Dr. Neal Connors (RISE) Biocatalytic reduction of ketones by ancient yeast strains isolated from fossilized amber
Janaya Reeves, Stefanie DeFronzo Dr. Marvin Bayne (RISE) Creating a worm model of Autism: Using CRISPR/Cas to replace the C. elegans neuroligin gene with human neuroligin mutant genes
Karan Erry Dr. Emily Hill Automatically Expanding Abbreviations in JavaDoc
Julia Morreale Dr. Patrick Dolan Understanding Paternal Perspectives in Genetic Counseling
Molly Murphy, Jordan Burnett, Uma Kantheti, Marina Hahn Brianne Barker Polyglutamine binding protein 1 (PQBP1) inhibits innate immune responses to cytosolic DNA
Yasmine Mourad,
Julia White
Dr. Roger Knowles,
Dr. Barbara Petrack
Neuronal Treatment with BDNF May Improve Plasticity of Neurites within Alzheimer’s Disease Cell Culture Model
Gillian Bradley,
Diane Gomez
Dr. Roger Knowles,
Dr. Barbara Petrack
Insulin and rosiglitazone as a potential neuroprotectant against excitotoxicity in an in vivo cell culture model
LaToya Evans,
Diego Scerbo,
Emily Tine
Dr. Stephen Dunaway Elucidating the Uncharacterized Role of pfh1 Helicase in DNA Damage Response
Yang Yang,
Danielle Holz
Dr. Roger Knowles,
Dr. Barbara Petrack
Lithium chloride as a neuroprotectant: effects on glutamate/amyloid-beta excitotoxicity in vitro
Brittany Barreto Dr. Roger Knowles,
Dr. Barbara Petrack
Evolution of Methalyn Blue as possible disease Modifying Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease
Diane Gomez,
Rachel Masia,
Julia White
Dr. Roger Knowles,
Dr. Barbara Petrack
Insulin as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease
Mays Zubair Dr. Christina McKittrick Evaluation of Corticosterone Levels as a Biomarker in a Rat Model of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Lloyd Robotham Dr. Patrick Dolan Cognitive Dissonance and Its Effects on Memory for Counterattitudinal Information
Ashley D. Allshouse Dr. Jessica L. Lakin Perceptions of cartoon and non-animated violence
Francesco Laterza Dr. Graham Cousens Role of Medial Amygdala in Phasic and Sustained Fear, 1:
Olfactory Fear-Potentiated Startle
Everett Henry Dr. Vincent Gullo The Synthesis of Drug Analogs with Potential Antimicrobial Activity
Evan Martens,
Ryan Lemence,
Heather Tynan
Dr. Arnold Demain Platensimycin- A Novel Antibiotic Produced by Streptomyces platensis
Christian Maggio Dr. Gullo and Dr. Demain Chemical Extraction and Identification of Platensimycin, Platencin, and A Novel Analog from Fermentations Produced at Drew
Rayana Kawam Dr. Adam Cassano Partial Purification of a Potential Novel Anti-Microbial
Lisa Maria Mustachio,
Selima Aksit,
Ronak Mistry,
Robert Scheffler,
Joanna Mleczko
Dr. Jane Liu Small RNA Regulation of Gene Expression in Vibrio cholerae in Response to Changes in Carbon Source
Erinn M. O’Neill Dr. Ryan Z. Hinrichs Heterogeneous Reactions of Nitrogen Dioxide with Potassium Iodide and Iodide-Enriched Sea Salt Aerosol Surrogates
Laurie A. Woodill Dr. Ryan Z. Hinrichs Impacts of surface-adsorbed catechol on tropospheric aerosol surrogates: Heterogeneous chemistry and water uptake.
Ashish Shah Dr. Mary-Ann Pearsall Tri-Osmium Clusters
Dillon Feigenbaum,
Christina Karas,
Kyle Messina
Dr. Adam Cassano The Catalysis of Phosphodiester Hydrolysis by Ca2+: Temperature Dependence and Solvent Deuterium Isotope Effect Studies
Ari Young Dr. Adam Cassano Optimizing a Procedure for Determining Isotope Ratios of whole molecules using ESI-TOF MS
H Sudol Dr. Robert Murawski Raman spectroscopy of organic molecules
Ariel Breitbart Dr. Minjoon Kouh Analysis of Neural Responses With a Linear Model
Alae Kawam Dr. Minjoon Kouh Wii Remote Experiments
William A. Menges Dr. David Mcgee Solution-Based Fabrication of Organic p-Channel Field Effect Transistors
Melissa Hoffman Dr. Robert Murawski Variable Star Observation and Light Photometry and Astrophotography