Research Opportunities in Chemistry and Biology

Welch Scholar Program in the Department of Chemistry

Dr. Robert Towery

My Welch research plans at Houston Baptist will obviously involve nucleic acid hybridization detection using the quartz crystal microbalance (QCM).  Several undergraduate research possibilities exist.  One such possibility is in the area of restriction enzyme effects on various probe molecules.  This gas phase project would entail treating an immobilized probe on the crystal with a restriction endonuclease.  This cleavage reaction should shorten probe molecules and cut probe loops to increase the binding capacity of complementary target molecules. Additionally, I plan to investigate the correlation of viscosity results obtained on the QCM with those obtained using the Canon-Fenske viscometer in order that interpretation of piezoelectric data can be better understood.  This liquid phase project will be completed using a teflon flow cell obtained through previous Welch funding.  Piezoelectric microbalances can be used to measure the viscosity of liquids in contact with the sensor surface.  In liquids, as opposed to vacuum or gas phase applications of the QCM, resonator characteristics can be altered by density and viscosity of the liquid.  As the viscosity of the liquid increases, accuracy and performance of the QCM diminishes.  These effects can be especially important when the QCM surface is modified with polymeric supports, as described above, in the detection of nucleic acid hybridization.  This leads to a variety of research possibilities.
Finally, a collaborative effort is planned with Dr. Eric Van Caemelbecke.  We plan to investigate nucleic acid reaction with dinuclear complexes of ruthenium and rhodium.

Links: Dr. Towery’s Personnel Page

Dr. Eric Van Caemelbecke

Welch scholars who have successfully completed the Quantitative Analysis course will have the opportunity to carry out a research project in a graduate environment at the University of Houston. They will often work in collaboration with graduate students which could lead to a co-authored publication. The projects involve synthesis, spectroscopic, and electrochemical characterization of metal-metal bonded complexes of ruthenium and rhodium. All projects require good lab skills in analytical and/or organic chemistry.

Links: Dr. Van Caemelbecke’s Personnel Page

Dr. Treacy Woods

Dr. Woods and her students use the tool of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectropscopy to explore the kinetics of organic chemical reactions.

Links: Dr. Woods’ Personnel Page

Dr. Taiya Fabre

Dr. Fabre is researching HPLC separation techniques in preparation for research on the Bucky Ball.

Links: Dr. Fabre’s Personnel Page

Dr. Saul Trevino

Dr. Trevino is researching protein solubility and stability.

Links: Dr. Trevino’s Personnel Page

Dr. Mary Osterloh

Dr. Osterloh’s research interests are organometallic chemistry and catalysis. Current research involves development of general chemistry and inorganic chemistry lab experiments for use in our current lab courses and future lab courses.

Links: Dr. Osterloh’s Personnel Page


Research in the Biology Department

Dr. Lisa Ellis

Dr. Ellis’ research uses the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, to examine genetic-by-environment (GxE) interactions. Students in her BIOL 3444 Genetics course use Drosophila to understand Mendelian genetics. Her BIOL 4297 Research students design projects to analyze behavioral or physiological changes in the fruit fly when various environmental factors, such as diet or temperature, are altered. Students have access to a variety of fly genotypes, including wild-type and mutants in insulin signaling, cancer signaling, body size, and genome size. Students often present these projects at the HBU Celebration of Scholarship Symposium and the Beta Beta Beta Regional Convention.

Links: Dr. Ellis’ Personnel Page

Dr. Jackie Horn

Dr. Horn’s BIOL 3414 Microbiology students have an opportunity to perform undergraduate research during the course.  Students work in teams to design, perform, and analyze an experimental project.  Projects that have recently been attempted include biofuel synthesis, bioremediation of oils, identification of bacterial contamination using PCR, and biofilm use and control.  These projects are often presented at the HBU Symposium in the spring, resulting in a published abstract for those who participate.

Dr. Horn has also served as the mentor for several Biology Honors Scholars.  She looks forward to working with those interested in a project involving microbiology or molecular biology.

Links: Dr. Horn’s Personnel Page

Dr. Meredith O’Hara

Dr. O’Hara’s research focuses on embryonic development, using zebrafish as a model organism. Research projects under her guidance will aim to observe how various teratogens affect embryonic development, specifically heart development and bone/cartilage differentiation. Dr. O’Hara also teaches Embryology, in which students use model organisms such as sea urchins, frogs, zebrafish, and quail to observe the processes that take place during embryonic development, such as fertilization, cleavage, gastrulation, and organogenesis.

Links: Dr. O’Hara’s Personnel Page

Dr. Brenda Whaley

Caenorhabditis elegans is a hardy worm that has been used as a model organism by molecular biologists since the 1980’s.  Although the worms have been studied for decades in the laboratory little is known about the ecology of C. elegans and related Caenorhabditis species.  Currently HBU students are using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to accurately identify individual worms at a species level and look for them and other Caenorhabditis in the wild.

Links: Dr. Whaley’s Personnel Page

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