PLU Chemistry Department Summer 2014 Research Projects

(Funding sources indicated by superscript numbers)

N-Heterocyclic carbene based materials for the activation and reduction of CO2

Dr. Eric Finney1, Katie Berge5, Alice Henderson4, Elizabeth Kaley1

Abstract: The reduction of carbon dioxide using N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) will be studied. Specifically, new NHC based materials will be prepared and tested for their ability to capture and reduce CO2 to formic acid, methanol, and other useful compounds.

Protein engineering for the development of novel or interesting natural products

Dr. Jon Freeman1, Inga Christensen1, Cameron Dunn1

Abstract: The project will focus on proteins related to the formation of triterpenes for biofuel applications and on proteins responsible for the formation of quinoline compounds for novel antibacterial development. Expression, characterization, and engineering of the proteins will not only lead to an enhanced understanding of their behavior but will ideally lead to the production of beneficial biofuels or new antimicrobials.

Iron oxide-coated carbon nanofoams as electrodes for iron-air batteries

Dr. Justin Lytle4, Max Mayther4, Sean Murphy7

Abstract: Portable electronic devices and electric vehicles (EVs) require ever-increasing amounts of power from batteries. Batteries can be designed to discharge larger amounts of current (i.e., with greater power density (W/kg)) when nanomaterials are incorporated into electrodes because nanomaterials have large amounts of surface area that make it easier for more electrode material to simultaneously react. We hypothesize that nanostructured, porous iron anodes will discharge with higher specific power (W/kg) than analogous iron-coated electrodes that have relatively lower surface areas. In our work, we first fabricate carbon nanofoams to have interconnected, aperiodic macropores that are 100s nm – a few μm in diameter. Using an established technique, rust deposits from aqueous solution onto the surface of carbon nanofoam pores, and then can be electrochemically reduced.

Elucidating the role of transcriptional mutagenesis in the acquisition of drug resistance using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Dr. Tina Saxowsky3, Pannapat Angkanaworakul3, Mackenzie Deane1, Jessika Iverson3

Abstract: In non-replicating cells, such as those subject to drug pressure, the influence of persistent DNA damage on transcription could affect cellular outcomes. Several types of frequently occurring base damage, including oxidative damage, can be bypassed by both prokaryotic and eukaryotic RNA polymerases, directing the incorporation of an incorrect nucleotide into the nascent RNA strand opposite the site of the lesion and generating a pool of mutant mRNAs in a process known as transcriptional mutagenesis (TM). The mutation in the mRNA could be translated into a population of mutant proteins with the ability to alter the phenotype of the cell. One prediction of the occurrence of TM in cells is that if the mutant protein generated allows the cell to escape growth constraints, a round of DNA replication will ensue. This would cause the lesion that led to the advantageous mutant protein via TM to be ncountered by the replication machinery, leading to a permanent DNA sequence change. This process is called retromutagenesis. Using the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we have developed an experimental system by which to explore this hypothesis, and we have begun to explore the parameters governing retromutagenesis induced by oxidative DNA damage. The goals of this coming summer will be to further strengthen the link between oxidative damage and retromutagenesis, as well as doing experiments to further implicate transcription in the generation of these late-rising mutants.

Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerization and Characterization of Oxanorbornene Polymers Towards Improved Energy Related Battery and Fuel Cell Electrolyte Membranes

Dr. Dean Waldow2, Thomas Kolibaba7, Victoria Popovich2, Jesus Rosales2, Douglas Smith2

Abstract: Ring opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) will be used in synthesizing two classes of diblock copolymers and homopolymers with potential application in battery membrane technology and in fuel cell membrane technology. The diblock copolymer structures synthesized will develop nanometer morphologies potentially allowing these materials to improve membrane performance. The nano-morphology of these materials will be studied as a function of block molecular weight allowing lamellar, cylinder, sphere, and gyroid morphologies to be produced on a sub 100 nanometer length scale. Subsequently, the influence of the nano-morphology on ionic motion will be investigated. One block in each material should allow for both thermal and structural support while the second block should provide ion mobility. The materials are expected to be characterized using many instruments (e.g., NMR, GPC, AFM, and electrochemistry) at PLU, dielectric spectroscopy at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, at the University of Washington (SAXS), and possibly SANS/BASIS instrumentation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory user facility.


Heat-Activated Molecular Triggers used to Initiate Sustained Release of Drugs

Dr. Neal Yakelis6,1, Chris Erkkila1, Brock Lynde6, Dylan Nehrenberg8, Aiste Taylor

Abstract: The controlled release of drugs in the body is a key way to improve the efficacy of pharmaceuticals. Through a collaboration with a lab at the University of Washington, we have worked to develop a prototype of a polymer that will release drugs slowly over time by the slow degradation of a self-immolating (or self-destructing) polymer (SIPs) in the blood stream. This release will be triggered by the thermally-induced reaction of a molecular trigger unit: the Diels-Alder product of an oxidized hydroxyurea. This trigger undergoes a retro-Diels-Alder reaction followed by reaction with water to release nitric oxide (NO) and initiate the slow release of the drug units. Our work this summer will look at building non-toxic molecular triggers that will degrade at different temperatures. We can then study the rates of their decomposition by monitoring color-changes by UV-visible spectroscopy.

Funding for the above projects:

1)    Division of Natural Sciences Undergraduate Research Program

2)    National Science Foundation, Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI)
Federal Award ID 1411247

3)    Research Corporation Cottrell College Science Award ID 22588

4)    LeMay Family Foundation Summer Chemistry Research Fund

5)    Robert C. Olsen Student Research Fund

6)    Karen Hille Phillips Regency Advancement Award

7)    Fred L. and Dorothy A. Tobiason Endowment for Faculty-Student Environmental Research

8)    Fred L. Tobiason Endowment for Faculty Student Research