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Projects in Chemistry

Students  seek out faculty who can mentor them through ongoing projects. Many members of the Chemistry faculty, such as professors Mark Brandt and Justin Shearer, are involved in important research that students can experience and learn from.

See some of the faculty/student projects currently underway: 


Students test the local waters
for uncombusted diesel fuel with Chemistry professor Justin Shearer.


Characterization of the estrogen receptor ligand-binding domain

Professor Mark Brandt

The estrogen receptors interact with the "female" sex steroid hormones to regulate normal growth and development in both genders. In addition, the estrogen receptors are implicated in the initiation and growth of several types of tumors, of which breast cancer is the most common. Binding of ligand to the estrogen receptor is known to alter the shape of the protein in ways that alter its function. However, the details of this conformational change in the protein are incompletely understood. In order to examine these changes, we express the ligand-binding domain of the estrogen receptor in bacteria. The bacterial expression allows us to produce the protein in large quantities, and allows us to produce modified forms of the protein with novel properties. We then characterize interactions between the protein and both ligands and other small molecules. Methods used to probe the effects of these compounds on the protein structure include HPLC gel filtration chromatography and fluorescence spectroscopy. Work in the laboratory thus involves DNA manipulation and other molecular biological techniques for generating new mutant expression plasmids, protein purification techniques, and HPLC-based and fluorescence-based experiments for characterizing the estrogen receptor protein. In addition, we have been using molecular docking and molecular dynamics computer simulations to in in analyzing the experimental results and to help in planning additional experiments. The overall goal of the project is to understand the mechanisms by which this important protein has its effects, and possibly to allow generation of improved treatments for estrogen-dependent tumors.

Research Project Central

To learn about other facuilty-based projects, internships and financial aid for projects, be sure to visit the student research program's website,  IP/ROP.