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Graduate Student Profiles and Projects

Name: Pamela Barnett
Undergraduate Institution:
University of Rochester, BS in Biochemistry
Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Kaplan
Research Project: A decrease in the number of new antibiotics being discovered has left the global population susceptible to rapid increases in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To combat this problem, there has been a renewed focus on compounds that can be isolated from natural sources, such as the marine environment. My work focuses on characterizing and identifying one such compound, isolated from Pseudoalteromonas sp. SW21. Currently, I am focusing on building a transposon mutant library to help identify the gene responsible for the antimicrobial compound.

Name: Nicole Bonan
Undergraduate Institution:
American University, BS Biochemistry
Advisor: Dr. Katie DeCicco-Skinner
Research Project: Tpl2 is a kinase in the MAPK signal transduction pathway. Mice that are devoid of Tpl2 (Tpl2 knockout mice) are more prone to develop a form of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. My research investigates how Tpl2 associates with other genes such as those in the MET signaling pathway and how this contributes to skin cancer formation and metastasis. Ultimately, we hope to better understand how Tpl2 works so that treatments targeting the kinase can be used more effectively.

Name: Brett Dempsey
Undergraduate Institution:
American University, BS in Biology
Dr. Katie DeCicco-Skinner
Research Project:
Identification of Somatic Mutations in a Tpl2 Knockout Model of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma. I am performing a Sanger sequencing analysis of normal tissue, DMBA-treated tissue, and tumor tissue from wild type and Tumor Progression Locus 2 knockout mice. Tissues were then extracted from these mice after a two-stage chemical skin cancer induction procedure was performed. I am sequencing the coding regions of HRas, Tp53, Met, and TGF-Beta genes, all of which are frequently implicated in cancer development. We have hypothesized that somatic mutations in these genes will be observed in higher frequencies in Tpl2 knockout mice and in tumor tissue compared to wild type control tissues. Furthermore, we believe that these higher rates of mutation could be causing the previously observed increase in skin cancer incidence in the knockout mice.