Abstracts: HHMI Student Faculty Research, 2005-2006

Ambrose, William, Professor of Biology
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Student-Faculty Research Grant – Awarded January 2006
Frequency, Intensity, and Ecological Consequences of Bloodworm (Glycera dibranchiata) Harvesting on Intertidal Flats in Maine
Commercial and recreational digging for infauna is a major source of disturbance to intertidal soft-sediment communities world wide.  Despite the extensive commercial harvesting of clams and worms from Maine’s intertidal mudflats, the impact of harvesting on intertidal communities in Maine has only been superficially examined.  I carried out a group of interrelated studies to quantify the frequency and timing of blood worm digging on intertidal flats and to investigate the impacts of worm digging on infaunal communities at the ecosystem, community, and individual levels.  Goals were  (1) to document spatial and temporal patterns of bloodworm digging on flats along an area of mid-coast
Maine that is heavily dug; (2) to experimentally examine the effects of worm digging on infaunal communities and tidal flat ecosystems.  The research is very labor intensive and requires two students to work during the summer to set up and sample experiments.  The students continued their summer research as theses the following year.

Côté, Matthew, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Student-Faculty Research Grant – Awarded January 2006
Nanostructure Fabrication and Characterization
Nanostructures are structures whose size is on the order of nanometers.  They hold promise both as the source of a new level of understanding of the behavior of matter as it crosses into the quantum domain, and also as the basis for new electronic, optical, and biotech devices.  This project focuses on the way nanoparticles’ behaviors depend on their size, shape, material, and environment.  We fabricated ordered arrays of metal and metal oxide nanostructures, and combined scanned probe microscopy and optical spectroscopy techniques to study their properties.  

Kelsey, John, Professor of Psychology
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Student-Faculty Research Grant – Awarded January 2006
Glutamatergic Transmission and Schizophrenia
We have established an animal model of schizophrenia in which acute injections of phencyclidine (PCP) in rats produce positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms that characterize schizophrenia.  A recent theory suggests that these symptoms are the result of overactivity at metabotropic receptors for the transmitter glutamate.  We sought to determine if an antagonist at these receptors will block these effects of PCP.  The student researcher participated in all aspect of this research, mastering the relevant literature, making up the drug, testing the animals, helping complete the statistical analyses, and, helping write up the paper.

Koviach, Jennifer, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Student-Faculty Research Grant – Awarded January 2006
Synthesis of Spiroketal Enol Ether Analogs
Plants within the tribe Anthemideae, especially those in the genus Chrysanthemum, produce a class of natural products that are structurally very similar.  Most likely, the plants produce these compounds as a defense against insects.  In fact, the “parent” compound, tonghaosu, has been shown to stop a silkworm infestation.  In addition, tonghaosu has shown antiphlogistic and spasmolytic activities.  Recently the compounds AL-1 and AL-2 were shown to have significant anti-tumor activity, hypothesized to arise from the reduction reactive oxygen species in the cell.  We synthesized a library of compounds that will ultimately be tested for anti-tumor activity.  The long term goals of this project are to test the compounds for anti-tumor activity, and determine which functional groups are necessary for activity.  

Wenzel, Thomas, Charles A. Dana Professor of Chemistry
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Student-Faculty Research Grant – Awarded January 2006
Crown Ethers as Chiral NMR Shift Reagents
We continued work on the development of improved chiral NMR discriminating agents.  The particular compound under study was (18 crown-6)-2,3,11,12-tetracarboxylic acid (18-C-6-TCA), which belongs to a general class of materials known as crown ethers.  Crown ethers are known for their ability to bond to and discriminate the enantiomers of compounds as primary amines.  We had recently discovered that 18-C-6-TCA also bonds to secondary amines.  This observation was unprecedented and suggested that the use of 18-C-6-TCA can be extended to this important class of compounds.  The project involved an exploration of the range of chiral secondary amines that can successfully be discriminated in the presence of 18-C-6-TCA.  A second facet of the project examined the discrimination of amino acids and amino acid methyl esters to see if the shifts in the NMR spectrum show a specific trend with absolute configuration.  If so, then 18-C-6-TCA can be used to assign the absolute configurations of amino acids.