Kansas State University


Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Where do Graduate Students Come From?

Check out this subject using a search engine. You’ll find that the fraction of PhDs in sciences coming from small liberal arts colleges far exceeds what would be expected based on the numbers of students enrolled there. A big reason is because at those places, undergraduates routinely get to do lab research. Once in the lab, they often get bitten by the research bug, and experience success in making discoveries.

K-State works hard at getting undergraduates into research labs. At minimum, every Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics major has to do a research problem. Many, however, will greatly surpass this minimum before they graduate. Michael Kanost’s research group includes three excellent examples of undergraduate researchers, all supported in part by grants from national agencies.

Caroline Braun is a junior with a major in Clinical Laboratory Science.  She was recently awarded a Cancer Research Award from the Cancer Research Center and has been accepted into North Kansas City’s Clinical Laboratory Science Program.  Caroline is studying the function of insect multicopper ferroxidases. The multicopper oxidases are an essential part of the way that insects can take up iron from their environment and convert it to the many uses that it has in cells.

Larry Rodriquez is a junior with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular biophysics.  He is a student in the Developing Scholars Program.  An interview with Larry about his research experience can be found on YouTube http://youtu.be/l5n0UKBQs6M.  Larry is using proteomics methods to analyze the proteins in insect molting fluid. Molting fluid was run on two dimensional gels to separate proteins. Then individual spots on the gels were analyzed with a mass spectrometer in the Biotechnology Center. Interesting proteins are being studied further by matching them to the DNA that encodes them, then examining the genes for clues to their regulation. (The whole genome of the insect is available already.)

Jamilah Watkins is a sophomore with a major in Chemistry.  She is a student in the Developing Scholars Program.  Jamilah’s research project was selected as the best first year research project in the Developing Scholars Program.  She is studying serine protease inhibitors in insect blood. Serine proteases are a large family of enzymes that cut other proteins. The inhibitors, often members of a family called serpins, control when and where the proteases do their work. Jamilah’s project is looking for inhibitors that are not just serpins.

-by Larry Davis & Maureen Gorman

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