Tag: research

Karabencheva-Christova Lab Reveals Molecular Mechanism of Cancer-Associated Enzyme

Cover page and images of Karabencheva-Christova's New Study
Karabencheva-Christova Publishes New Study
Tatyana Karabencheva-Christova
Associate Professor

A recent research article by Karabencheva-Christova’s group was showcased on the back cover of Chemical Science, the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

The team led by Dr. Karabencheva-Christova includes Ph.D. students Anandhu Krisnan (first author) and Fathima Hameed Cherilakkudy; Ph.D. graduate Sodiq Waheed ’23, currently a researcher at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Indiana; and Ph.D. graduate Ann Varghese ’23, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Toxicological Research, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in Jefferson, Arkansas. Professor Christopher J. Schofield from the University of Oxford, U.K., was a collaborator on the study.

The research illuminates the origin of the atypical catalytic strategy employed by the human non-heme Fe(II)/2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase AspH, which is a target for anticancer therapy.
This research was funded by NIH grant 2R15GM132873-02. We thank Sarah Atkinson (RD, MTU) for her assistance with image preparation.

Anandhu Krisnan, Karabencheva-Christova New Study
Anandhu Krisnan
Ph.D. student
Fathima Hameed Cherilakkudy, Karabencheva-Christova New Study
Fathima Hameed Cherilakkudy
PhD Student
Ann Varghese ’23
Ann Varghese ’23
Ph.D. graduate
Sodiq Waheed ’23
Sodiq Waheed ’23
Ph.D. graduate

About the Chemistry Department at Michigan Tech

Chemists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues and advance research making contributions to health and well-being, environmental protection, responsible use of materials, and climate stabilization. The Chemistry Department offers five undergraduate degrees, an MS and PhD in Chemistry, and an accelerated MS. Supercharge your chemistry skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at chemistry@mtu.edu. Follow all the latest happenings on the Chemistry Blog.

Samantha Ludwick: Research, Coaching, and Internship! Oh My!

Talk about making the most of your college experience. If you’re thirs-year student Samantha Ludwick just studying medicinal chemistry at Michigan Tech isn’t enough. She is active on campus as a researcher learning how molecules interact, Chemistry Learning Center Coach, and VP of Philanthropy for the Delta Zeta National Sorority. Samantha also completed an internship last summer with Pfizer. Samantha spends lots of time in the lab, and she loves it. We sat down to catch up with Samantha about her research, internship, and the other things she has done as a student.

Samantha Ludwick
Samantha in the research lab

How did you get interested in research?

My interest in research stems from my Organic Chemistry 2 lab at Tech. In this class, we did a 5 week-long organic synthesis-based project where we had to come up with and execute a procedure to efficiently synthesize and characterize a target molecule. In the end, my group created the molecule but had a very low yield (namely, a lot less was made than was intended). Rather than feeling discouraged, I was energized by the problem-solving opportunity that this presented me with.

Failing and figuring out how to improve your experimental process is a huge part of research, specifically organic synthesis-based research. I ended up reaching out to my TA for that class over the summer and meeting with her to discuss potential research opportunities for me at Tech. I explored other labs, but ultimately joined my TA, and now research mentor, Monica Nyansa, in the Tanasova Lab doing organic synthesis research.

What kinds of things do you do in the Tanasova lab?

My current research is based on organic synthesis and characterization, with an application to biologically active molecules. In this lab, I have created procedures to develop and characterize novel molecules. One key distinguisher of biological molecules is in understanding the chirality, or orientation in space of the molecules. For molecules meant to interact within the body, one orientation of a molecule may be therapeutic, whereas the other orientation may potentially be dangerous. Oftentimes when molecules are synthesized, they are present in a racemic mixture of enantiomers, which is a mixture of both chiral orientations of the molecule.

To distinguish enantiomers, I learned a technique called Mosher Ester Analysis, which involves the synthesis of diastereomers of molecules and analysis via NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance). NMR is a machine that helps to identify and confirm a molecule’s structure. NMR can identify diastereomers and not enantiomers, which is why Mosher Ester Analysis is necessary. My key research goal has been to synthesize a novel molecule and determine its absolute stereochemistry (or orientation in space) via Mosher Ester Analysis. As I continue this research, I plan to take a more biochemical approach and characterize novel therapeutic molecules.

Some things that I do in the lab include setting up and carrying out chemical reactions, purification, and analysis. Each reaction is based on procedures that I’ve found in literature research and have modified to best fit my desired outcome. Purification typically involves column chromatography, or a technique to extract the desired product from various impurities based on polarity and the solvent utilized. Analysis manifests itself in a variety of techniques, with the most important one being NMR. Each day in the lab is slightly different, which keeps things exciting for me. Throughout my time in the Tanasova lab, I have greatly improved my laboratory techniques and have become a much stronger scientist.

Samantha Ludwick
Samantha snowshoeing on Mt. Baldy.

How do you think working in the lab has set you up for success in your after-graduation plans?

Becoming involved in undergraduate research has encouraged me to consider graduate education in chemistry. Before joining the Tanasova lab, I had never really considered pursuing a PhD in chemistry. Spending each day in the lab and learning more about the nitty-gritty of organic chemistry has helped me align my talents and passions with something that I enjoy doing. My technical and analytical laboratory skills and analysis have grown significantly since I joined the lab. I am certain that they will continue to grow as I continue my work. After I graduate from Tech, I have the potential to enter a graduate program with a strong understanding of organic synthesis.

What do you enjoy most about the research you do?

My favorite part about research is how challenging it can be. There are times when I obtain unexpected data, or a certain procedure doesn’t work, and I must determine a way to resolve the issue. Sometimes my proposed solution doesn’t work, and it’s back to the drawing board. This process can be lengthy yet has taught me the importance of perseverance. I enjoy solving problems and my research is a great outlet for doing so.

You’re a coach in the Chemistry Learning Center. What do you do? How has this helped you?

I coach students in Organic Chemistry and Chemistry 1 and 2 via weekly and walk-in appointments. I’ve learned communication skills and how to guide students as a mentor and coach. I’ve learned to approach each student differently as they have unique needs and different learning styles. I use analogies and explain things in a multitude of ways until the concept sticks. It’s my responsibility to get them comfortable to learn. Patience is key. I’ve learned to be more patient. In the end, I want them to succeed.

Samantha Ludwick
Samantha tutoring in the Chemistry Learning Center

You recently completed an internship as a Global Sterile Injectables Intern at Pfizer. What types of things did you do there?

At Pfizer, I worked with the documentation department of Chemical Quality and Quality Control Chemistry. Essentially, I got to see the types of testing and regulation that are done on a drug before it gets released to the market. My intern project concerned retain samples, or products that are pulled at the end of production to allow for future testing. With this project, I determined and standardized retain for 200+ products that were produced at my site. I implemented my procedure into a standard operating procedure (SOP) for future use by the company. Through this project, I gained a deeper understanding of applications of my degree and learned more about what corporate life entails.

How else did you benefit from this internship?

My internship with Pfizer exposed me to a lot of the pharmaceutical industry firsthand. I had the opportunity to meet with professionals in various areas of the company, including research and development, lab professionals, and manufacturing. I learned that there are many ways that I can apply my medicinal chemistry degree after I graduate, and that was very refreshing.

And there were other essential skills I developed. I gained independence and leadership skills due to my project ownership. I learned how to speak up and advocate for what I needed to complete the project. I became better at networking with company leaders. I was able to move a project forward that was important. I also had to move to North Carolina by myself and adapt to a new place. I’m very grateful for this experience, and am glad that I was given the opportunity to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

Plus, I learned what my degree looks like in the real world. I saw I could have a good-paying and enjoyable career.

What is next for you?

This next summer, I will be working as a Validation Intern with Pfizer. Again, I will be exposed to new areas of the pharmaceutical industry, and am very excited for this opportunity. I plan to continue doing research with the Tanasova lab throughout my senior year (Fall 2023-Spring 2024). Continuing to give myself a broad range of experiences will allow me to become more well rounded, while simultaneously deciding the best career path for me.

Call for Applications: 2023 Songer Research Award for Human Health

Undergraduate and graduate chemistry students are encouraged to apply for the 2023 Songer Research Award for Human Health. Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have a broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. The Songers’ gift and matching funds from the College will support two awards for undergraduate research ($4,000) and two for graduate research ($6,000), for research conducted over the Summer of 2023 and/or the following academic year.

Learn more about who is eligible to apply, how to apply, and how the funds may be used.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 24, 2023. Applications may be emailed to djhemmer@mtu.edu. Any questions may be directed to David Hemmer (djhemmer@mtu.edu).

New Funding – Xiaohu Xia wins CAREER Award

image113518-persThere is something very noble about Xiaohu Xia’s research. He wants to use palladium, platinum, ruthenium and other corrosion-resistant metals to refine tests to detect biomarkers for cancer and infectious diseases. To do so, he plans to use nanostructures made of these noble metals that mimic natural enzymes and has earned a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to focus on this research.

The grant covers five years, totaling $457,783, and enables Xia to dig deep into the structure-property relationships of the bimetallic peroxidase mimics at the atomic level. Even small changes in nanostructures can produce big results, demonstrated by his lab with improvements in the catalytic efficiencies of iridium-coated palladium and ruthenium nanostructures.

Read the full story on the Michigan Tech news website.

New Glycobiology Study led by Tarun Dam


Tarun Dam led a new study, published this week in Biochemistryexamining the biomechanics of galectin-3’s interaction with glycosaminoglycans (GAG) and proteoglycans. His team includes graduate students Melanie Talaga, Ni Fan, Ashli Fueri, Robert Brown and Research Assistant Professor Purnima Bandyopadhyay.

At the Laboratory of Mechanistic Glycobiology, Dam and his students study the sugar, including glucose and other structural, complex sugars, that fuel our bodies. GAGs assist in controlling growth factor proteins, which go unchecked as cancerous tumors grow.

Even though the findings of the study were unexpected, it opens up new possibilities for understanding glycobiology and biomechanics. “Seeing galectin-3 interact with GAGs and proteoglycans is like finding a rose in the petunias—it’s very unexpected,” Dam says. “It’s fair to say that this requires revisiting the reported biological functions of GAGs, proteoglycans and galectin-3.”

Next, Dam and his team look into additional research, “Now we have to reconsider the whole drama, retracing the steps and actions of that character… we are using cell lines and animal models to study this interaction in a cellular context.”

Read more on Michigan Tech News, by Allison Mills.


Poster Presentation: Ning Chen

Dr. Pat Heiden’s student, Ning Chen, presented at the 42nd Central ACS Regional Meeting in Indianapolis IN in June 2011 as well as at the 243rd American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in Anaheim CA in March 2011. Here are some photos of Ning with his poster:

42nd Central ACS Regional Meeting243rd American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in Anaheim CA in March 2011

ACS meetings are an excellent opportunity for students! Reach 12,000 chemical professionals at each 2012 national meeting or at other events throughout the year, including regional meetings.