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Undergraduate Research in Chemistry

Student Research in Chemistry

Jasper Werby '14 discusses his 2013 chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Project, which he undertook under the mentorship of Professor Cynthia Selassie. He focused on the development and synthesis of a new bifunctional, antimalarial drug.


Pomona is a community of daring minds. It is a place for students who are venturesome by choice, who have talent, passion, and independence of spirit, and who are prepared to dream big and work hard in order to make a difference in the world.

One way that Pomona College provides opportunities for students to excel is through research opportunities. Conducting research as an undergraduate not only gives students an advantage when applying for fellowships or graduate school; it also gives them a chance to tackle real-world problems and to find out what it’s like to be treated as colleagues by their professors, many of whom are the leading experts in their fields.

Effect of Substrate Charge Density on the Layer of Bound Water in Solid Supported Lipid Bilayers

Marco Lobba (2013); Student Collaborator(s): Juliah Shay Kim (2016); Mentor(s): Malkiat Johal

Abstract: Solid supported lipid bilayers provide a convenient system for mimicking biological membranes. Unfortunately, these simple systems come with limitations that prevent them from modeling important biological functions. One drawback of solid supported lipid bilayers has been the inability to use them to model cellular hydration due to the small size and lack of control over the Layer of Hydration (LoH) between the bilayer and the surface. Using a combination of Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) and Dual Polarization Interferometry, we show that it is possible to tune the LoH by varying the electrostatic interaction between the bilayer and its solid support. We found that the thickness of the LoH was dependent upon the pH and varied from 12.7 Å at pH 1.6 to 9.6 Å at pH 10. This work presents an important step towards developing solid supported biomembrane models that can be used to probe changes in cellular hydration in response to well controlled biological phenomena. This work is now a manuscript that will be submitted for publication in the coming weeks.
Funding Provided by: Rose Hills Foundation (ML); Pomona College Department of Chemistry (JK)

The Effects of Glycation on HSA’s Affinity for Hemin: A QCM-D Study

Alison Mercer-Smith (2015); Student Collaborator(s): Gabriella Heller (2014); Additional Collaborator(s): Lewis Johnson; Mentor(s): Malkiat Johal; Kevin Sea; Matthew Sazinsky

Abstract: Non-enzymatic glycosylation is the process by which sugars covalently bond to proteins, potentially altering their structure and function. We investigated the change in affinity of human serum albumin (HSA) for hemin, a small iron containing molecule, after the protein was incubated for two weeks with three sugars: glucose, fructose, and glyoxal. The formation of protein-heme complexes was measured using a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D). We hypothesize that as HSA's exposure time to sugar increases, less hemin will bind to HSA. A decrease in the binding affinity for hemin can negatively impact HSA's ability to transport hemin, which can even lead to free hemin in the blood. Free hemin may lead to higher rates of bacterial infection as some bacteria may use it as a micronutrient.
Funding Provided by: Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation (AM); Howard Hughes Medical Institute (GH)