Chemistry Professors Guide Undergraduates to Top Awards

Posted on November 28, 2012

Three DU undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry students presented winning posters in a competition at Carnegie Mellon University’s Bridging Research Communities symposium.

Sara Katrancha, senior biochemistry major from Dunlo, Cambria County, took first place for her poster on the Fragile X syndrome. Her research with Dr. Rita Mihailescu, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, analyzed the properties of mutated cellular protein in some patients of Fragile X syndrome. Her goal was to understand if the mutation caused the disease by either a gain or loss of function with respect to the normal cellular protein. (See Katrancha and Mihailescu discuss their work on YouTube.)

Kasey Devlin, sophomore chemistry major from Freeport, Armstrong County, won second place. Her poster, The Synthesis and Characterization of a Novel I 2-II-IV- VI4 Diamond-Like Semiconductor, explained her research of the structure and physiochemical properties of diamond-like semiconductors. Working with Dr. Jennifer Aitken, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Devlin had prepared several new diamond-like semiconductors and studied their crystal structures and properties.

Emily Spitzer, senior biochemistry major from Scranton, received sixth-place for a project dealing with the hepatitis C virus. Her research, conducted with Mihailescu in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, used biochemical and biophysical methods to analyze the binding properties of a peptide nucleic acid. This peptide is designed to fight against the virus’ developing resistance to current therapy received by infected patients.

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