Current CBI Trainees

2017-18 Trainees Research Description

Patrick Brunson

Patrick Brunson
Moore/Allen Labs

Domoic acid, a potent neurotoxin produced by diatoms in the genus Pseudo-nitzschia, poses a significant threat to human health and the environment. The largest ever bloom of domoic acid-producing Pseudo-nitzschia occurred off the coast of North America during the summer of 2015, and the impacts of changing climates on future blooms is yet to be fully understood. Despite being a hot area of research for decades, the biosynthesis of domoic acid has remained elusive. I am combining RNAseq technology with in vitro biochemical analysis and heterologous expression strategies to discover and test candidate genes that might be involved in domoic acid biosynthesis. With the biosynthetic pathway in hand, we can help create novel genetic tests to detect domoic acid-producing Pseudo-nitzschia before they bloom and pose a threat to coastal communities.


Kayla Busby
Devaraj Lab

Recent efforts by the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) to characterize the transcriptome have uncovered that while only 1-2% of the genome codes for proteins, a majority of the genome (~62%) is transcribed into RNA. Despite the rapid identification of noncoding RNAs, the characterization of these RNAs has lagged behind, in part due to the difficulty of identifying the proteins that interact with an RNA of interest. My research aims to develop an efficient method for the isolation of RNA-protein complexes via direct labeling of a specific cellular RNA with a purification handle such as biotin. Our lab’s recently developed methodology, RNA Transglycosylation at Guanosine (RNA-TAG) covalently modifies RNA by facilitating an enzymatic reaction in which a guanine nucleobase is replaced with a derivative of the nucleobase preQ1. Through further development of this method, we aim to characterize disease relevant RNA-protein interactions.


Albert Kakkis
Tezcan Lab

The self-assembly of proteins into supramolecular architectures is ubiquitous in Nature, as it gives rise to macromolecular complexes critical to biological function. In my research, I will apply principles of coordination chemistry to facilitate supramolecular protein assembly. My goal is to harness heteroleptic metal coordination motifs to drive the assembly of l-rhamnulose-1-phosphate aldolase (RhuA) and Repressor of Plasmid protein (Rop), two functionally distinct proteins possessing C4 and C2 symmetry. Successful assembly of these proteins into a two-dimensional array would exemplify a novel, metal-mediated path to heteromeric assemblies.


Kelsey Krug
Burkart Lab

My work focuses on the design and synthesis of splicing modulators, exploring their unique mechanistic operations, and using this information to develop new biological tools.


Taryn Lucas

Taryn Lucas
Godula Lab

The influenza virus affects millions of people annually. It is known that the virus initiates infection by binding to certain sugar receptors present on the surface of the host’s cell. However, not much is known about how the 3-dimensional presentation of these glycans alter the extent of viral binding. Using a microarray platform to print glycopolymers on a glass slide allows for a high throughput manner for investigation. I am specifically interested in probing how the polymer length, valency of the glycan, and their concentration on the array affect viral binding. This information will provide new insights into the mechanism of influenza A viral infection.