Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Belmont University and North Central College

BelmontRyan-Agh-DOE1Rising Belmont University senior chemistry major Ryan Agh spent ten weeks working on the chemical synthesis of certain enzymes, to create an amino acid analog that contains heavy atoms, so that his classmate, rising junior biology major Ambrose Rice, would be able to incorporate them into proteins. The students’ passion for this concept, one in which some may find difficult to comprehend, set them apart from other students interested in working under Belmont Chemistry Professor Dr. Duane Hatch at the Department of Energy’s Visiting Faculty Program. At the culmination of the summer, the duo presented their research at the 15th Annual Los Alamos National Laboratory Student Symposium, where Agh took home first place for his poster.

The students explained the reasoning for their research – to expand the unnatural, synthetic amino acid tool box for scientists to further explore protein structure and function. The heavy, or electron dense, atom helps instruments to better “see” the protein structure and its function. There are a number of applications that immediately affect the general public, but the main purpose of this project was to aid scientists and industry, overall. Read more.

NCCPure5Meanwhile North Central College students Dana Lacey ’16 and Taylor Spino ’17 computed, evaluated and formulated in paradise. During summer 2015, they participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo. The Pacific Undergraduate Research Experience in Mathematics (PURE Math) program presented the unique opportunity to learn, research and be mentored with other students from many different universities.

“Math REU’s are very competitive, but students from North Central have an edge. After all, out of the 24 total students in this program from all over the United States and Guam, two were from North Central,” says Lacey. PURE Math was her second REU opportunity. Read more about the North Central students’ experience.

Also, a faculty-student sustainability research project sought to manage the trees on North Central’s 65-acre campus. Read more about this comprehensive tree database.

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