BY | Nicole Mandel ’16
Portland, Oregon
Chemistry with a Biochemistry Emphasis

Copper plays an important role in cellular function, and the disruption of copper levels in the body plays a role in many diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Since  copper levels are associated with Alzheimer’s and other diseases, it is important to understand how copper interacts with biomolecules on a fundamental level.

I worked in Professor Splan’s inorganic biochemistry lab perfecting a protocol to purify a gene-activating protein that regulates copper levels in human cells. This protein binds to DNA with three zinc finger domains (parts of a protein that use zinc to help it fold and function properly), and activates genes that regulate intracellular copper.

I came to Macalester interested in biology, and because of the fantastic chemistry department and faculty here, I developed an intense love of chemistry. It was amazing for me to see how the chemistry of these proteins (specifically metals) affects their biology!

Last summer I had the opportunity to do medicinal chemistry research at the University of Minnesota. This was fantastic, as I first became acquainted with research at a large university with graduate students and postdoctoral associates.

This summer, in Professor Splan’s laboratory at Macalester, I cultured E.coli cells and learned how to use analytical machines such as the HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography) and FPLC (fast-protein liquid chromatography) to determine the purity of the protein I was working with. Now I feel I have an in-depth understanding of what it means to do biochemistry research in the lab.

Working at Macalester I enjoyed the individual support and working closely with a professor and a group of other Macalester students. In this environment, we are able to discuss directly with each other and our professor what our results mean and how to proceed in our research.

My desire to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry has grown immensely, and I am looking forward to further study of the chemistry of transition metals in my advanced inorganic chemistry course.

November 2 2015

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