Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Biology major awarded competitive research grant

Congratulations to Wendy Dria (AU'11), a biology major working with Dr. Andrew Greene. Wendy has been awarded a $500 research grant by the Beta Beta Beta Research Foundation. This competition is open to students who are active members of Beta Beta Beta Biological Society and doing research. Wendy says that she "would encourage students to do (this). Applying for this grant was not only a great opportunity, but it also provides experience for graduate school and future careers."

Wendy's project is titled "Confirmation of circadian rhythms in protein expression in Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus nidulans." Wendy explains that "circadian rhythms are daily oscillations in behaviors such as spore formation in fungi. These rhythms can free-run in the absence of temporal cues with approximately 24-hr periods, and they are controlled internally by protein-based oscillators. Circadian rhythms have been extensively studied in the fungus Neurospora crassa, and in N. crassa, whose rhythms are dependent on the FREQUENCY protein. Aspergillus sp. exhibit circadian rhythms in spore development and gene expression, however, no detectable ortholog of the FREQUENCY protein exists in the sequenced genomes of Aspergillus sp."

Wendy, Andrew Greene, and Dr. Becky Corbin, Dept. of Chemistry, "have previously identified fluctuating proteins using 2D gels and MALDI analysis." That work was supported by a grant from the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program. Now, their "main focus is to confirm the cycling of these proteins and identify if they are oscillator components." The funding from this grant will be used to purchase supplies needed to do this. "Confirmation of expression levels will be accomplished by examining transcript levels by real-time PCR, or by non-radioactive Northern blotting. Confirming these oscillations will allow us to identify interesting genes to knock out so that we can determine function in generating circadian rhythms. Once these proteins in Aspergillus are identified we will be able to address further how circadian clocks evolved in the fungal kingdom."

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