Franciscan Institute for Science and Health - Chemistry Research | Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Chemistry - FISH

    Chemistry Research with Dr. Mark Watry

    We are currently working on three projects in our laboratory. Each of the projects takes advantage of a collaboration with Dr. Hongfei Wang at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland Washington. Dr. Wang has two laser systems we can use to study these systems in molecular detail, and one of these systems is the only one that exists. The systems are used to do Vibrational Sum Frequency Generation (VSFG), a nonlinear optical spectroscopy that probes the vibrational spectrum of molecules at interfaces. This technique allows us to examine only the surface of a sample, and it gives us information on what is happening at the molecular level.

    Read what students have to say about Chemistry research. 

    Interactions between amino acids in proteins.

    Biological systems are essentially complex chemical systems, and the proper folding and binding of proteins is essential to the proper functioning of these systems. We are examining the interactions between amino acids that find themselves near each other in proteins after they are folded. These are complex systems, so in place of a protein, we are bringing amino acids together by tethering them to the air/water interface. We attach a hydrocarbon chain (the tether) to the amino acid then dissolve the compound in water, and the compound naturally migrates to the water surface where we can examine the interactions. 

    In May 2013, Franciscan student Stephen Wilson '15 traveled to Pacific Northwest Laboratory along with Dr. Mark Watry and Dr. Teresa Tarbuck to acquire spectra of the molecules at the air/water interface. These spectra will tell us about the local environments around the amino acids. 

    In June 2014, Franciscan student Matthew Williams ’15 traveled to Pacific Northwest Laboratory along with Dr. Mark Watry and Dr. Teresa Tarbuck to acquire more spectra of more of these molecules at the air/water interface. These spectra will tell us about the local environments around the amino acids.

    Mechanism of anesthetic action in biological cells.

    Over one-hundred years after the discovery of anesthetics, we still do not know how they work. It is likely that they interact with the cell membrane. In this project we are modeling the cell membrane using a phospholipid monolayer (phospholipids are the main structural component of the membrane) and examining how the presence of an inhalation anesthetic (halothane) affects the properties of the monolayer.

    In June 2014, Franciscan student Matthew Williams ’15 traveled to Pacific Northwest Laboratory along with Dr. Mark Watry and Dr. Teresa Tarbuck to acquire spectra of phospholipid monolayers at the air/water interface in the presence and absence of halothane. These spectra will tell us about interactions between the anesthetic and the lipids.

    Tissue engineering for wound repair.

    A primary goal of tissue engineers is to develop a material that can be injected into a wound that directs and speeds up the body’s own repair mechanisms, that minimizes the risk of infection and immunogenic reaction, and that metabolizes away when the job is finished. The RGD sequence of amino acids (arginine, glycine, aspartic acid) is known to effect cell adhesion and cell mobility. Artificial scaffolds like PEG hydrogels can be used to fill the space in a wound where we want new cells to accumulate. Students in Dr. Derek Doroski’s laboratory have synthesized PEG hydrogels and PEG hydrogels functionalized with pendant RGD groups. Mesenchymal stem cells adhere to the functionalized hydrogel. We would like to know if the presentation of the RGD sequence (its 3-D orientation in space) affects the binding of the cells. Our collaborators at EMSL are collecting the spectra of the surfaces of these hydrogels to determine the orientation and conformation of the hydrogel and the RGD sequence.

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