Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Trustee Scholar Stacey Wagner ’03 (Shavertown, Pa.) used biochemistry and physical chemistry techniques to investigate protein isolation and stabilization as an EXCEL Scholar during the 2002 interim session between semesters.

A biochemistry major, Wagner conducted research for a project called “Isolation of DNA Photolyase and Investigation of Its Tertiary Structure Stability Spectroscopy.” Her work included growing E. coli bacteria that were engineered to produce excess amounts of the protein being studied. The addition of a small molecule or inducer to the bacteria caused production of the protein.

“The inducer causes the bacteria to make a lot of protein,” she says. “We kept repeating this process until we felt the protein was pure enough to do studies on.”

With sufficient protein on hand, Wagner stabilized it and conducted analysis with spectroscopy. The goal was to find an environment for the protein so it could be kept for longer periods of time.

Wagner worked with Yvonne Gindt, assistant professor of chemistry. “Proteins are unique molecules,” says Gindt. “They are extremely fragile and sensitive to the environment. Stacey learned how to work with delicate systems. She already had a relatively good background in general theory, but this was her opportunity to put the theory into practice. She used a combination of techniques and concepts covered in the classroom along with some specialized material that a student wouldn’t normally see until graduate school. More importantly, she learned how to systematically solve a problem where the answer is not known.”

The research was part of a larger project in collaboration with the chemistry department at New York University. “We are providing both purified enzyme and biochemical expertise,” says Gindt. “The NYU spectroscopists have run into some problems using the enzyme, and we are attempting to solve their problems.”

Gindt worked very closely with Wagner on both the purification procedure and the stability studies. “Stacey will become much more self-sufficient with time,” says Gindt. “She displays both the work ethic and scientific curiosity that I always hope to find in the best chemistry students.”

Previously, Wagner worked on EXCEL research and published papers with Joseph A. Sherma, professor emeritus of chemistry. “I’ve done a lot of research with Dr. Sherma and I enjoyed that research and wanted to try something more in biochemistry,” says Wagner. “Protein preparation takes a long time because there are so many different elements. I really enjoyed doing this project and encourage other students to get involved. I don’t think other schools offer this and it gives you a good idea of what you might want to do in the future.”

A graduate of Dallas High School, Wagner is a resident advisor, vice president of College Republicans, and a member of the ski racing team. She also belongs to the Alternative School Break Club and will travel with a team to a location just outside Budapest, Hungary, over spring break to work with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate on home construction for low-income families.

Categorized in: Academic News