Department of Chemistry Biochemistry

Our Students...

Younes Ansari
Ph.D. in Chemistry

I believe ASU's School of Molecular Sciences is one of the best in the nation due to the variety of research areas and number of publications in prestigious journals. Having a theoretical background, I joined Professor Angell's lab to pursue my PhD as an experimentalist. Professor Angell kindly allowed me to choose projects that I had interest in and he made me his research assistant from the very beginning of my research. I have always been interested in conducting research on fuel cells and batteries and Professor Angell gave me this opportunity. I very much enjoyed working in his lab. He patiently taught me all the experimental skills and guided me through the concepts of my research. With his guidance, I was able to make a modified phosphoric acid electrolyte for use in hydrogen fuel cells which was thermally stable to >200°C with current efficiency higher than any other fuel cell ever made. This work was patented and was partly published in the Journal of Power Sources which according to one of the reviewers was a great technological development. In addition, with Professor Angell's supervision, I was able to make a novel type of protic ionic liquid which showed superprotonic behavior. These ionic liquids will potentially be used as electrolytes in fuel cells or as lithium conducting electrolytes for use in lithium ion batteries. This work is about to be submitted to Nature. Professor Angell and I were able to successfully make the first room-temperature inorganic ionic liquid that showed high lithium conductivity and without any doubt, in the near future, such ionic liquids will be the frontier electrolytes for use in lithium ion batteries.

Professor Ian Gould and our former graduate student coordinator, Martha McDowell, made a lot of effort to help me pass the Test of Spoken English (TSE). With their help, I was able to pass the test on my first attempt.

My lab mates also made the lab environment a pleasant place to work. I am thankful to all of them and must also thank Professor Jenny Green who supported me a lot.

I am very thankful to all of them.

I will join Professor John B. Goodenough's research group, at the University of Texas at Austin, as a postdoctoral fellow right after my graduation. Professor Goodenough received the National Medal of Science from President Obama on February, 2013.

  "Younes has done a really nice job developing original and surprising types of ionic conductors especially since his M. Sc. solely involved computer simulations. An enthusiastic reviewer of his recent communication reporting tests of a new fuel cell electrolyte wrote that the paper was "presenting preliminary but convincing results of a great technological development: the synthesis and testing of a new phosphoric acid-based electrolyte for fuel cells, able to operate at very high temperatures (>200°C) without loss of conductivity." We are currently submitting his findings on “Superprotonic Superacidic Ionic Liquids” to Nature Physics because, while there has been lots of stuff over the years on superacid-related chemistry, there has been very little on superacid physics. He has accepted a post-doc offer from John Goodenough at UT Austin. Goodenough was one of this year's Medal of Science winners.". - Dr. Austen Angell, Ansari's Ph.D. Advisor

Hanyang Yu
Ph.D. in Biochemistry

I came to ASU for my graduate study in the fall of 2007. Intrigued by the power of in vitro evolution to create designer molecules with tailor-made functions, I joined Dr. John Chaput's laboratory at the end of the first semester. The main theme of the Chaput lab is to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution in a test tube and to isolate molecules with desired properties from a pool of numerous different sequences. My first research project involved in vitro selection of functional nucleic acid sequences, addressing a basic question regarding the molecular recognition events between DNA and proteins. That was the first time I learnt, from Dr. Chaput and other group members, how to conduct comprehensive scientific research. Later on, I had the privilege to work on a more challenging project involving artificial genetic polymers. This interdisciplinary project was made possible in the Chaput lab through collaboration between organic synthetic chemists and biochemists. And this project has resulted in publications in high-profile chemistry journals.

I benefited a lot from my graduate research. Dr. Chaput trained me in various aspects, not only experimental techniques, but also presentation and writing skills. With his guidance, I became more knowledgeable and confident about my research. I also cherished the moments when I shared my research achievements and frustrations with my colleagues. I very much valued the opportunities to attend international conferences and to present my work to a broad audience.

The School of Molecular Sciences & the Biodesign Institute at ASU offer a very stimulating and collaborative research environment. Every year I was able to learn something new at the poster session during the visitation recruitment weekend. It was also helpful to hear feedback from other faculty and students. At the Biodesign Institute, a number of core facilities are available, providing enormous research resources and technical support. My projects required an essential equipment of capillary electrophoresis, which was not available in our lab at the time. Fortunately, other centers at the Biodesign Institute offered such instruments and made my research possible.

Research was a large part of my graduate study but not all of it. Teaching was also an important experience I enjoyed as well. Working as a teaching assistant in the elementary organic chemistry lab for a group of biomedical engineering students was not an easy job for me at all. I took up this challenge and learnt a lot from it. I first had to learn every detail of the required organic reactions so that I could avoid saying "I don't know" when being asked questions by students. I also learnt that there was a difference between understanding something myself and explaining the very same thing to the students in a way that could be readily understood by them. Fortunately, I had the privilege to work with a very experienced and helpful instructor, Dr. Michael Davis-Allen, and I am grateful for his help.

I am currently a postdoctoral associate at the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. In the future, I plan to start my independent research lab after a few years of postdoctoral training. My graduate experience in the School of Molecular Sciences & the Biodesign Institute at ASU has allowed me to grow from a student to a scientist and prepared me well for my future career. I learnt how to design and perform experiments, how to passionately present results and how to write manuscripts and research proposals. These are all invaluable assets I gained during my study at ASU and will treasure for the rest of my life.

  "Hanyang Yu joined the Biochemistry Ph.D. program at ASU in August 2007. He worked under the supervision of Prof. John Chaput. Hanyang has published several first-author papers in top-tier chemistry journals including, Nature Chemistry and the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Hanyang has received awards for his presentations at international conferences, including the Gordon Research Conference on Nucleic Acids. During his Ph.D. study, Hanyang has become a critical thinker and careful scientist worthy of a future career in academia." - Dr. John Chaput- Yu's Ph.D. Advisor  

Amy Davis
B. S. in Biochemistry with a Medicinal Chemistry Emphasis

I graduated from Arizona State University in May 2013 with a degree in Biochemistry with a concentration in Medicinal Chemistry. My research experience at the Biodesign Institute allowed me to utilize what I learned in my classes to more experimental applications. I spent over two years in the Personalized Diagnostics lab working on type 1 diabetes (T1D). The majority of my time in the lab was dedicated to my honors thesis. Since literature has shown an association between certain viral infections and the development of T1D, this project used the lab's innovative platform, Nucleic Acid Programmable Protein Array (NAPPA), to study the viral humoral response in T1D patients.

Not only was my research a great learning experience, but it helped me stand out as an applicant when I was applying to medical school. Schools showed interest in my work during interviews, and I would highly encourage students to get involved in a lab early in their undergraduate career. The experiences will help you become a well-rounded scientist and a more inquisitive student! I am currently a medical student at the University of Arizona College of Medicine- Phoenix, and I am eager to continue research with the school's Scholarly Project.

Daniel Liebold
B. S. in Chemistry

My job in the military was very chemistry-intensive, and I unexpectedly enjoyed it. After completing 6 years of service, I decided to supplement my experience with a degree in Chemistry. During my junior year, I did a semester of Undergraduate Research in Professor Shock's lab. I helped measure organic carbon samples from Yellowstone National Park.

I was hoping to do an internship that summer, and landed an interview with the Chemistry Department Manager of a local employer. Part of the interviewing process required me to describe a project that I did in school. I gave a brief presentation on my experience in Dr. Shock's lab. As it turned out, the interviewer was very familiar with the equipment. My experience in the lab must have made a good impression because I got hired on as a summer intern. Out of the 20+ people that were hired as interns, I was the only Chemistry major. The rest were majoring in engineering disciplines. I had a very engaging summer internship experience, so I applied for an "Engineer" position with that same company. I'm pleased to say I got a job offer 2 months before I graduated.

Out of 18 new engineers hired just after graduation, I am the only person without an Engineering degree. Even though it was only for a single semester, I'm glad I decided to participate in Undergraduate research. That experience really set me apart from many others during my job search.

Michael Kenney
B. S. in Chemistry

Mike Kenney is an Arizona native who began his studies at Arizona State University in the fall of 2008 after graduating from Mountain Pointe High School. Upon entering ASU, he chose to major in chemistry because he was interested in how the elementary building blocks of matter interact with one other to produce macroscopic properties that can have important applications.

In the spring of 2009, he began work on the solar energy applications of porphyrin chromophores in the laboratory of Professor Devens Gust. In the Gust lab, Mike has explored novel synthetic reactions to produce light-harvesting antenna (published in 2011 in Chemical Communications) and the photophysics of porphyrin polymers using ultrafast laser spectroscopy techniques.

During the summer of 2010, Mike was awarded a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Fellowship (NSF REU) to conduct research at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. At CMU, he worked with magnetic materials expert Professor Michael E. McHenry on making polymer nanocomposites for applications as radar absorbers.

In the summer of 2011, Mike was awarded the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to work at the California Institute of Technology under the advisement of Professor John D. Roberts in the Department of Chemistry. While at Caltech, Mike used NMR spectroscopy to study the active site of the serine protease family of enzymes.

In addition to his research experiences during his time at ASU, he has also been active in science outreach, participating in such programs as The Quanta Foundation (a 2011 Edson student-initiative and high school science outreach company) and the Next Generation of Innovators Speaker Series.

Mike’s work at ASU, Caltech and CMU has led to national awards such as the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. He was also named as the recipient of the inaugural Dean’s Medal for the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU in spring 2012.

Beginning fall 2012, Mike will enter the PhD program in chemistry at Stanford University where he plans to study the applications of nanomaterials to energy-related problems.

Berea Williams
Ph.D. in Chemistry

As an undergraduate chemistry major, the decision between medical school and graduate school was easily resolved once I started conducting laboratory research; I realized I wanted to be the scientist that invents and discovers the new ideas and tools that physicians would eventually use in the clinic.

This inventor mindset is what attracted me to Arizona State University (ASU). Out of the 5 universities I visited for graduate school, I found that ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences was the most focused on discovering and developing new use-inspired concepts. During my first year at ASU, I had the privilege to be a recipient of the National Science Foundation- Integrative Graduate Educational and Research Traineeship (NSF-IGERT) with a handful of other engineers, biologists, physicists and chemists. Together we developed a new conceptual model of building a nanoscale DNA-based circuit board. My experience with the NSF-IGERT set a solid foundation for my future in solving complex problems through interdisciplinary research. That foundation was further built upon during my Ph.D. research, which involved the collaboration of six independent professors on three novel bionanotechnology based projects, all of which resulted in successful publication.

ASU provided me with more opportunities than I could conceive and I was only limited by time on what resources to take advantage of. From travel grants for attending conferences to infinite laboratory resources and research collaboration, I feel I was extremely fortunate to be a member of the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU. Additionally, the department’s exceptional educational and training program has prepared me for my new career as a Senior Scientist at Henkel, where I will continue inventing by developing new formulations for personal care products!

  "Ms. Berea Williams has been an outstanding graduate student in our department, and plans to pursue a successful career as a Research Scientist. I look forward to her continued success and wellbeing". - Dr. John Chaput, Berea's Ph.D. Advisor

Mingyi Xie
Ph.D. in Biochemistry

To explore the mystery of life has always been my dream. The idea of understanding complicated biological questions from the ecosystem perspective fascinated me at first. As a undergrad research assistant, I joined the Laboratory of Coastal and Wetland Ecosystems to study the re-forestation of coastal mangrove ecosystems in southern China. During the two years of research in the ecology lab, I realized that the fundamentals of many biological phenomena could only be revealed on the molecular basis. Therefore, I decided to pursue a scientific career in biochemistry and molecular biology.

In 2005, I was fortunate enough to be enrolled in Associate Professor Julian Chen's lab as a graduate student in our department. Chen lab is a perfect place for me in every way. Telomerase research is the cutting edge of molecular biology as this enzyme has great implications in cancer and aging. The fellow graduate students in Chen lab are outstanding and I learned so much from every one of them. And Associate Professor Chen, a successful scientist himself, wholeheartedly mentored me to grow into a true scientist. During the 5 years training in the Chen lab, I have significantly improved in doing research, whether it is designing an experimental strategy, working at the bench, analyzing the data or writing a manuscript. My skills in scientific presentation were also polished through our weekly-based group meetings and the conferences that we have attended. Most importantly, I found immense joy discussing scientific issues with Julian, colleagues or anyone else.

The projects I have been working on in the Chen lab were aimed at deciphering the mechanism of telomerase reaction. As a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex, telomerase is composed of a catalytic protein component called Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase (TERT) and a telomerase RNA (TR) component.

Most telomerases are able to utilize a short RNA template sequence within TR to synthesize a long stretch of telomeric DNA without dissociation from the substrate, an ability termed "repeat addition processivity". By using human telomerase reconstituted both in vitro and in vivo, I have demonstrated that a conserved motif in the reverse transcriptase domain of the telomerase protein is crucial for both telomerase repeat addition processivity and rate. Furthermore, I have designed a "template-free" telomerase system to show that RNA/DNA duplex binding is a critical step during telomere repeat synthesis. In an attempt to expand our understanding of vertebrate telomerase, I have studied RNA-protein interactions of telomerase from teleost fish. The teleost fish telomerase RNA is by far the smallest vertebrate TR identified, providing a valuable model for structural study of telomerase RNP.

Investigating the structure and function of telomerase has provided me with the experience of various RNA-protein molecular biological and biochemical techniques, as well as expanded my research interest in the "RNA world." In particular, I find the fast growing field of microRNA research fascinating. My long-term goal is to continue conducting research on important biological questions in this field.

  "I am proud to say that he(Mingyi) has transformed quite impressively from a regular run-of the-mill student to a capable and independent researcher. The key to his success is that he always takes my advice and his projects seriously, and puts forth every effort to meet the expectations. He has certainly raised the bar high for other students in the lab." - Dr. Julian Chen, Mingyi's Ph.D. Advisor  

Josh Niska
B.S. in Biochemistry

I began at Arizona State University four years ago as a bioengineering student. After a year of BME, taking Dr. Ian Gould’s organic chemistry course my sophomore year sparked my interest in organic reactions, something of which I saw little in BME. I specifically wanted to learn more about organic reactions in their biological context, so much so that I changed my major to Biochemistry with an Emphasis in Medicinal Chemistry. My time as a student in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department not only fulfilled my desire to learn more about chemical reactions in the human body through courses like Biochemistry I and II, Medicinal Chemistry, and Advance Organic Chemistry I but also provided me the freedom to explore other aspects of an education in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including an honors thesis in Biology and Society, continued education in the Spanish language, and a variety of volunteer and internship opportunities.

As part of my honors thesis, I had the opportunity to travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon during the summer of 2008 in a study abroad program from Barrett, the Honors College that allowed me to investigate means of improving health among the indigenous population of the Napo province as well as to learn more about Spanish and indigenous language and culture. My experiences in Ecuador with the indigenous community and their physicians, shamans, and other healthcare providers made me realize the importance of cultural understanding and the need to evaluate all forms of medicine in order to improve healthcare for patients of all backgrounds. After returning, I worked with Dr. Jane Maienschein to apply my research from Ecuador toward the broader concept of cross-cultural medical practice, focusing on the relationship between indigenous healing traditions and mainstream medicine. Through The Triple Helix, a peer-reviewed undergraduate journal, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to publish two vignettes of my work: Towards A New Medical Paradigm: Exploring Cross-Cultural Interactions In Medicine and When Language Is Not The Barrier: Assessing Communication in Health Care. Now that I have completed my thesis ("Better Medicine": Implementing Truly Cross-Cultural Patient Care), I hope to continue to investigate diversity in medicine throughout my career as a physician, with the perspective that all patient encounters are cross-cultural.

While at ASU, I have also been fortunate to be able to participate in The School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Program as a Fellow at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), where I first researched brain cancer and then transitioned to developing a research project on invasive breast cancer. My project at TGen aims to determine the role of a gene called Fn14 in breast cancer progression. Through the fantastic mentorship of Dr. Heather Cunliffe, I have been able to publish my research in a manuscript entitled "The fibroblast growth factor-inducible 14 receptor" is highly expressed in HER2-positive breast tumors and regulates breast cancer cell invasive capacity as well as a forthcoming publication entitled "Regulation of Fn14 Expression in Breast Cancer". Dr. Cunliffe’s support has also led to other awards, including a Goldwater Scholarship.

Each experience I have had at ASU has provided me invaluable opportunities for both personal and academic growth. From helping with science lessons with Dr. Ian Gould at Kino Junior High School to getting clinical experience in the BIO 390 and BIO 490 courses with Phillip Scharf to working as a writing tutor at the ASU Writing Center, I consider myself fortunate to have had access to all that ASU, the School of Molecular Sciences , and Barrett, the Honors College have to offer. As I move on to medical school, I will look back on my experiences at ASU grateful for all those who played integral roles in propelling me to where I am and excited to give back in my career as a physician.

Josh received 2009 National Goldwater Scholarship and 2010 Scholarship Awards of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Josh is a very bright and talented student, one of the best I have taught," says Ian Gould, President's Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "This is especially impressive in view of the time he spends in the research lab, doing high-quality research work. He also has been an enthusiastic teacher to junior high students in our outreach program."

Chenxiang Lin
Ph.D. in Chemistry

My graduate career started in the spring of 2005, when I came to ASU to pursue a PhD degree in Chemistry. Attracted by the idea of using DNA as a nano-scale building material, and Dr. Hao Yan's strong publication record, I joined his laboratory immediately after my arrival. After the first week of excitement about my new life, I found myself facing two major challenges. First, I needed to improve my English, and second, I had to learn as much as I could about the research topics in the Yan lab, which were totally new to me. Fortunately, I was not alone; the department offered me all the help I needed to get me on the right track. Dr. Ian Gould made tremendous efforts to help me improve my spoken English; he corrected my pronunciation, taught me how to pass the SPEAK test, and most importantly, built my confidence so that I could talk with others in English without hesitation. Dr. Hao Yan and Dr. Yan Liu patiently taught me how to design simple DNA nanostructures, trained me in all of the basic lab techniques, and helped me with troubleshooting when I stared to work on my initial projects. With their help, I passed the SPEAK test after the first semester and my first publication came out after my first year. The smooth start made me believe that I was ready for more challenges.

My entire graduate career was never lacking in challenges, and I enjoyed working out the solutions to each one. Dr. Yan always gave me projects that allowed me to grow as a scientist. He is an incredibly creative chemist and he constantly fed me with novel and inspiring research ideas. He is also a great mentor who helped me learn how to turn original ideas into detailed research plans. He never let me rest on what I had already achieved, instead, he kept reminding me of the ultimate goal of the research and encouraged me to constantly think about the next step. As a result, my 250-page-long dissertation described a series of innovative and systematic studies on building self-assembled water-soluble nanoarrays for biosensing and the replication of artificial DNA nanostructures using biological methods.

I am currently at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & Harvard Medical School as a postdoctoral fellow. In the future, I plan to stay in the academic world and perform interdisciplinary research that bridges the fields of nanoscience and biochemistry, with the ultimate goal of developing medical applications of nanotechnology in biological systems. My graduate studies in the School of Molecular Sciences & The Biodesign Institute at ASU allowed me to mature as a scientist and have prepared me well for my future career. In addition to the scientific knowledge and experimental skills, I learnt how to establish collaborations on and off campus, how to write research articles and reviews, how to give professional talks at conferences, and how to write grant proposals. These are the invaluable possessions that I gained in the fruitful and enjoyable journal that was my four and a half year graduate career at ASU.

"The reason why Chenxiang is one of the most productive students (he has more than 10 first author papers published) in my group is that he always thinks about control experiments carefully before doing them. Chenxiang is going to Harvard Medical School for a Postdoc position. I am very proud of him". - Professor. Hao Yan, Chenxiang's Advisor.

Lisha Lin
Ph.D. in Chemistry

My academic career has been greatly influenced by my father, a chemistry professor. I started stepping into his chemistry lab when I was a middle school student. I still remember how much fun it was to see my father make the color of a reaction switch between blue and red. Gradually, I fell in love with doing research because I found that it could always give me a surprise as I study something that is still unknown to almost everybody. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in chemistry in China, I came to the United States for postgraduate education. Five years ago, I was invited to visit ASU by the School of Molecular Sciences during their visitation weekend in March. The chemistry doctoral program offered by ASU attracted me very much primarily because it allows students to focus on research instead of a heavy course load. Besides, some professors' projects were amazing which made me very excited. Hence, I made up my mind to pursue my doctoral study at ASU.

In the first year I focused on courses and my teaching assignment. Being an organic lab instructor allowed me to learn how to communicate with students. It also did help me improve my spoken English. After I had finished most of the required courses and got more familiar with the faculty's research interests, by the end of first year, I made a determination to join Dr Stuart Lindsay's group. One of his research areas involves developing a fast and cheap DNA nanopore sequencing method that, if successful, will have a very important impact on our lives. The sequencing projects I worked on require interdisciplinary knowledge and techniques from organic chemistry and biochemistry to physics. It was full of challenge and excitement. My advisor Professor Stuart Lindsay is an exceptional scientist who is extremely creative. His fascination with science, as well as his optimism and persistence always inspired me not to give up whenever I got into trouble. For instance, I had problems obtaining recognition images of DNA base pairs using scanning tunneling microscopy for several months. During this time, he never blamed me for my slow progress. Instead, he encouraged me to be optimistic by looking at things from different angles.

Currently, I am working in The Regenerative Science Institute as an intern. In the future, I plan to continue performing interdisciplinary research investigating living systems using chemical methods. The graduate career experience I obtained at ASU was definitely unique and extremely helpful. It has enabled me to turn my dreams into reality. In addition, I made a lot of good friends in the past five years. I will cherish the memory of my doctoral studies and life at ASU.  

Zofia at ASU Spring 2009 Commencement

Zofia M. Wosinska
Ph.D. in Chemistry

Interdisciplinary has been the word to describe my academic adventure from the very beginning.

My family and I moved to the United States from Poland in the early nineties when my parents were offered teaching positions in the Department of Psychology at ASU. Growing up with psychologist parents strongly influenced my early academic career, initially swaying me to follow in their footsteps by pursuing a B.S. degree in psychology. When taking required science courses, however, I stumbled upon a passion for chemistry. I loved the challenge of the discipline and continued to take chemistry courses throughout my undergraduate career. Eventually I was offered an organic chemistry teaching assistant position. I was also involved in a research project in the psychology department, which gave me my first exposure to the scientific method. My honors thesis, "Psychoneuroimmunology of Oncological Diseases", combined my interests in both the natural and social sciences. My free time as an undergraduate was filled with my love for dancing and travel. Following graduation I moved to Salvador, Brazil for a year, where I taught English and studied Portuguese; and of course joined a dance group.

After this incredible experience I was eager to start my graduate studies at ASU. My dissertation research focused on the mechanisms and kinetics of DNA oxidation, which are implicated in mutation, disease and the ageing. One significant aspect of my work was that I had to acquire a wide range of skills ranging from multi-step organic synthesis, analysis of biological samples to investigations of complex kinetics using transient laser techniques. I was also very involved in the life of the Department as president of the chemistry graduate student council. I also had a unique teaching opportunity as the assistant organic lab coordinator, which involved overseeing 20+ teaching assistants, and nearly 600 students. I owe most of my growth as a scientist however to my advisor, Ian Gould, who was, and continues to be, an irreplaceable mentor, and in innumerable ways helped me to find my "equilibrium". The triumphal completion of my doctorate with President Obama's handshake was an unforgettable finale to my ASU journey.

Currently I am employed as a research scientist on a management track at Ventana Medical Systems, a Roche owned tissue diagnostics company. The interdisciplinary training that I received at ASU has been critical in allowing me to build bridges between the chemists, biologist, engineers, histologists, medical doctors and managers that I work with everyday. I am excited about this new and challenging opportunity to use and build upon my research experiences, and importantly to play even a small role in the quest to make a positive difference in lives of cancer patients and their families.

Oh... and I always remember to continue dancing.
"Zofia's interdisciplinary training resulted in her receiving two job offers from one interview! However, I am most proud of her growth as an independent scientist, she has the skills, enthusiasm and talent to make a difference, and she will!" - Professor Ian Gould, Zofia's Advisor.

Charlene at Papago Park in Tempe, AZ

Charlene Bashore
B. S. in Biochemistry

Charlene Bashore is a biochemistry major and senior in the department. She is one of three 2008 national Goldwater scholarship winners at ASU. Bashore began her undergraduate research experience in a general chemistry course where she was offered a position in the laboratory of Peter Williams.

"Dr. Williams has been incredibly patient and helpful throughout my time here at ASU," says Bashore. "The research I am doing is interesting, pertinent, and I am glad to be there."

Williams' lab group is a part of the National Human Genome Research Institute project. The goal is to develop a more cost-efficient, quick way to sequence DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic code for all living things. The lab's work with DNA sequencing focuses on a process called sequencing by synthesis. The process is used to determine the order of the nucleotide bases - adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine (A,G,C,T) - within a molecule of DNA. The nucleotides are a sort of genetic alphabet. Different combinations of these bases are used to make proteins, the building blocks of life.

"My aspect of the project deals with the enzyme DNA-polymerase, a molecular machine in charge of taking in the bases that constitute DNA (A,G,C,T) and pairing them up with those on an existing DNA strand," says Bashore. "By feeding in fluorescently-labeled nucleotides we can measure if the added base corresponds to the base on the other strand," she explains. Bashore is looking at energy levels of the DNA-polymerase molecules and examining where they attach themselves to other molecules. "With some work, I can measure the molecules gathered from our sequencing method," says Bashore. The skills she is learning now are important. They will help her in future projects to study the behavior of DNA-polymerase in specific situations.

Charlene was named to the 2009 USA Today's All - USA College Academic First Team.

Sarah Lucius
B.S. in Chemistry

Sarah grew up in Powder Springs, GA and started her career at ASU in 2006 as a National Merit Scholar and Scholarship recipient. While she initially chose to major in chemistry as a stepping stool to get into medical school, she fell in love with the subject and the endless discoveries made in the research laboratories during her first year of classes. The enthusiasm of the chemistry professors for their work and dedication they had to sharing their passion for chemistry with their students led her to consider a future career more closely related to chemistry.

On top of working diligently to make excellent grades, Sarah also worked a part-time job on campus and volunteered much of her free time in the ministries of Tri-City Baptist Church. Working on the leadership team to plan activities for the church's college group - Re:vive- for three years, Sarah made several friends and learned valuable lessons about leading by first serving others. She also served as a mentor and instructor to elementary school girls through the church's AWANA program for three years, volunteering an hour every week to help guide them through their lessons. Seeing that moment when the understanding of a new concept first dawned on a student and their excitement at being able to apply it to their own life led Sarah to develop a love for teaching.

During her Junior year at ASU, Sarah was asked to be part of a research group in the biophysics department, working on molecular dynamics modeling of a simple extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK). The group used modeling to learn more about the mechanism involved in phosphorylation of this kinase, which activates the protein's signaling pathways. This protein is important in the study of cancer and its cure, as the disruption of this signaling pathway occurs in most forms of cancer. In her Senior year, Sarah joined Dr. Anne K. Jones' research group in the area of inorganic chemistry. There, she learned modern laboratory techniques and detection spectroscopies in addition to studying and producing synthetic mimics of the biological hydrogenase enzyme using the d-block metal, ruthenium. This study has numerous applications to medicine and photoelectric chemistry, and is currently being studied by a number of research labs as the possible key to a new hydrogen fuel economy.

"I was so impressed by how much the professors cared about me and were more than happy to give me advice and share what they'd learned from their experiences, that I wanted to do the same for someone else", said Sarah. Sarah decided to apply for ASU's Master in Secondary Education certification program in Fall 2009 and was immediately accepted. She looks forward to being able to share her love for chemistry and her experiences in the research field with Arizona high school students in the hopes that they will develop an interest in all that chemistry has done for the world, and what it has yet to offer us in the future.  

James playing softball at Liu Group Outing Summer 2008

James Cronican
B. S. in Biochemistry

James grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and joined the Honors College at ASU in 2003 as a National Merit Scholar. In addition to working hard and receiving excellent grades in his courses, James had a broad undergraduate experience. When he first began his academic career, he performed research studying metal binding proteins under Dr. Wilson Francisco. During this time, he developed a design for an instrument that could rapidly and automatically extract DNA and RNA from tissue. This design formed the basis of a business plan that led to a $17,000 grant from Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative. He was able to pursue this work in the laboratory of Dr. Frederic Zenhausern. In recognition of his outstanding leadership and intellectual acheivements, James received a Goldwater Scholarship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and was named to USA Today's 2007 All-USA College Academic Second Team.

Since receiving a B. S. in Biochemistry in May 2007, James has enrolled in Harvard University's Chemical Biology Ph.D. Program and joined Dr. David Liu's research group. David Liu's research group applies evolutionary principles to organic chemistry and chemical biology. James has been busy researching properties of 'supercharged' proteins. []

In reflecting back on his undergraduate days, he says that his time at ASU prepared him very well to pursue his scientific studies. "The classes at ASU are very thorough and provide a solid foundation in biochemistry. I felt I was just as well prepared as my peers who had studied at universities like Harvard or MIT. And a great strength of ASU is the opportunity to learn outside of class. There are so many resources for a student interested in undergraduate research and I would highly recommend seeking them out." James says that he is continually reminded of the quality education he received at ASU; from ASU faculty presenting seminars at Harvard, to reading articles on photosynthesis in Science by Dr. Jim Allen [to reading high profile papers by ASU researchers], or by walking past Boston biotech companies based upon ASU technology.