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Thursday, February 16, 2012

CI students from left to right
Lorenzo DeSantiago, Camille Peredo, Devon Dally,
Eric Needleman (from the CSU), Jason Torres, Susan Ly, Claudina Cammack
Photo compliments of the CI Chemistry Department
While some of us may have been feasting on leftover Christmas cookies or savoring our last days of sleeping in before the dawn of a new semester, several CI students including Susan Ly and Lorenzo DeSantiago were busy presenting their research at the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB) symposium in Santa Clara over winter break. “It’s cool because you get immersed into everything… all the big companies are there,” said DeSantiago. “You have Google, Yahoo and biotechnology companies are everywhere.”

Ly and DeSantiago are part of a research team led by Dr. Blake Gillespie, associate professor of chemistry at CI. The team is dedicated to studying CusF, a protein found in E. coli, in hopes to better understand what governs protein stability. “We want to understand the basis of ligand-dependent stability,” said Ly. “We are not trying to cure a disease but many diseases arise from protein misfolding.” The team hopes to create a global model for protein stabilization that can be related to other proteins as well as CusF.
CI student Lorenzo DeSantiago 
Photo compliments of the CI Chemistry Department

In addition to allowing undergraduates the opportunity to present their own research, CSUPERB is an excellent place for students to make new connections in their field. “You get to network across different CSUs,” said DeSantiago.

Ly explained that her favorite part of the conference was viewing the other student’s research poster presentations. “It is really interesting to find out about what other students are doing,” said Ly. “Also, it is good practice to try to explain your own research in a way that a person outside your field can understand.”

Both Ly and DeSantiago expressed thanks for the opportunities that have been available to them at CI. “I am incredibly grateful for this research opportunity,” said Ly. “I know if I was at another school I would not be able to do the research I am doing now.” Interested parties will have a chance to check out Ly and DeSantiago’s project among other current research happenings at the 2012 Southern California Undergraduate Research Conference in Chemistry and Biochemistry (SCURCCB) that will take place in April on our very own CI campus.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Albert Einstein
In the past decade, suspicions have arisen in the scientific community concerning the uniformity of the constant, alpha, that reflects the strength of electromagnetism in regards to how hydrogen gas absorbs ultraviolet light in space. Alpha seemed to differ throughout the universe based on observations made in the last decade with the Keck Telescope in Hawaii and again in 2010 with the Very Large Telescope in Chile. If confirmed, this idea would challenge Einstein’s equivalence principal, that states that the laws of physics are the same in all parts of the universe, and may lead to wacky new ideas like the existence of other universes and additional dimensions. Some scientists thought this idea was a bit too bizarre to deserve much merit.

Recently, in a study done by teams at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics in Pune, India and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico titled Constraining Fundamental Constant Evolution with HI and OH Lines, that was thought to finally settle the debate, researchers detected the hydroxyl molecule’s emission and absorption of radio waves in a gas cloud 6.7 light years away. The hope was that the radio instruments used, which are capable of taking measurements at 50 to 100 times greater accuracy than in previous experiments to detect hydrogen absorption, would provide evidence of a more conclusive nature regarding these claims.

Unfortunately, researchers came up empty handed. It was the expectation that the emission and absorption lines observed from the hydroxyl molecule would be mirror images of each other. This was not the case in this experiment, which led researchers to believe there was something spoiling their measurements. One possibility is that a second hydroxyl gas cloud lying on the same plane was responsible for the screwy results.

Since gas clouds that carry a hydroxyl signal are hard to come by, possibilities for settling the dispute in the near future are looking grim; however, every gas cloud has a silver lining. Though it may take years, this new promising method may prove useful as new clouds are discovered and examined.