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  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only.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.

When EXCEL Scholar Danielle Martin’06 (Farmington, Conn.) began intensive summer research, she helped break new ground for Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology and an expert in parasitology, and Joseph Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry.

Journal of Liquid Chromatography & Related Technologies recently published their coauthored paper, “High Performance Thin Layer Chromatographic Analysis of Neutral Lipids and Phospholipids in the Medicinal Leech Hirudo medicinalis and in Leech Conditioned Water.” In addition, Journal of Planar Chromatography published “The Absence of β-Carotene and the Presence of Biliverdin in the Medicinal Leech Hirudo medicinalis as Determined by TLC.”

Fried says Martin worked well on her own in preparing their papers, searching for background articles in scholarly journals, and applying what she learned to her research.

“Danielle really is very strong at what she does,” he says. “She’s intrinsically an excellent student.”

The researchers collaborated as part of Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

With support from Sherma’s Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Senior Scientist Grant, Martin used high-performance thin-layer chromatographic analysis of neutral and polar lipids in the medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis­, used in plastic and reconstructive surgery to help restore blood circulation to grafted tissues and reattached appendages.

High-performance thin-layer chromatography, a topic about which Fried and Sherma have co-authored numerous articles with students, is a procedure for separating closely related compounds for analysis.

“Our main strength is really lipid biochemistry,” says Fried, pointing out that after focusing for years on snails, he and Sherma decided to branch out and experiment with Hirudo medicinalis.

Martin continued her work with leeches through independent study research in which she explored whether their bodies contain pigments such as beta-carotene.

“With the leech pigment research, Danielle is working in uncharted waters, and she has done very well gathering pertinent literature sources, developing new methods, and applying them to analysis of the leech,” says Sherma.

Martin extracted pigments from the leeches by homogenizing them in acetone, filtering the samples, “blowing them down” in nitrogen gas, and reconstituting them in heptane. She then used high-performance thin-layer chromatography to compare the leech samples with spinach, which contains beta-carotene.

“My findings dispute many sources that claim Hirudo medicinalis leeches contain beta-carotene,” she says.

She also tested the leeches for the bile pigments biliverdin and bilirudin.

“There is no literature available about the pigments in leeches, so this is an uncharted field,” Martin says. “To do this research, I found papers that use thin-layer chromatography to determine the presence of biliverdin in other organisms and I related their research to my study on the bile pigments in leeches. Slowly, I discovered more information about the leech at the molecular level.”

Martin says that both Fried and Sherma “were helpful in answering questions and very encouraging.”

“I really enjoyed doing research with them,” she says. “Lafayette’s environment is great for academic projects. My research applied all the techniques and concepts I have learned in my classes. Now I have a better understanding of the different concepts from applying them in real lab situations.”

Sherma shares Martin’s satisfaction with the knowledge of research and lab techniques she has gained.

“Danielle has done an excellent job in her research,” he says. “She learned the biological and analytical chemistry techniques quickly and thoroughly, and has worked very independently and with great efficiency and enthusiasm.”

Martin, who has served as a teaching assistant in general chemistry, calls the research “a unique opportunity” for an undergraduate and has found Lafayette’s biochemistry program very satisfying.

“When I leave Lafayette, I’ll have two years of research experience as well as experience as a teaching assistant,” says Martin, adding that she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics. “The classes are very challenging, but professors are always available to answer questions, even during non-office hours. I’ve found that all of the chemistry faculty knows me by name. It’s a nice feeling to be in a small class where the professor actually knows you. Also, the facilities are excellent, the classes have many resources, and the labs have up-to-date equipment.”

This past summer, Martin received a fellowship to conduct biomedical research at University of Connecticut Health Center under the direction of Marc Lalande, professor and chair of genetics and developmental biology. Working closely with a graduate student, she investigated whether genomic imprinting was present in the Ube3a gene of the chicken, which is the gene implicated in the neurological disease Angelman Syndrome. She also developed “a consensus sequence and exon/intron organization of chicken Ube3a based on expressed sequence tags in the database.”

Martin is a member of the student chapter of American Chemical Society and Delta Gamma sorority, where she has served as director of scholarship and an Adopt a Grandma volunteer, and is active in intramural sports. She took the January interim abroad course Coral Reefs and Caves: The Geology of the Bahamas. Previously, she performed in flute choir, tutored students in general chemistry, and participated in Neighborhood Tutoring Network and hospital volunteer programs through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center.

Included in Who’s Who in America and once featured on Discovery Channel, Fried is one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of parasitology, with three organisms named in his honor. His research has led to important advances in the effort to conquer tropical diseases caused by parasitic flatworms.

Author of more than 600 research papers, books, and reviews, Sherma has spent much of his career advancing the fields of pesticide analysis and chromatography. A recipient of the 1995 American Chemical Society Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution sponsored by Research Corporation, Sherma has involved 151 different Lafayette students as coauthors for 223 papers published in peer-reviewed journals.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty students have been accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News