Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Infectious Diseases

Li Laboratory

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We study the molecular structure, function, and mechanism of proteins or complexes related to bacterial or viral infection and host response, using crystallography, biochemistry, and molecular biology. Current projects include bacterial and viral superantigens, signaling proteins involved in apoptosis and stem cell regulation, and rational drug design against key viral enzymes.

The Li Lab

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Our goal is to understand the fundamental principles that governing the folding of RNA and to protein-RNA interactions.

Fuchs Laboratory

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My lab is interested in the following questions: How is ribosome composition altered in cells during stress and during a viral infection? How does ribosome composition regulate how much and which proteins are synthesized? Are ribosomes in cancer cells different from ribosomes in healthy cells? Cab we use ribosome modifications to identify novel biomarkers for early cancer detection?

Wang Laboratory

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I study experimental evolution by using microorganisms, particularly bacteriophage, as a model system. Currently my research focuses on two areas: (1) the genetic basis for the evolution of life history traits, with phage lambda as a model system, and (2) the identification of bacterial enzymes targeted by ssRNA phage lysis proteins.

Shi Laboratory

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Areas of interest: molecular and cellular biology of transcription and signal transduction, aptamer-mediated multi-pathway control in living cells and organisms, and drug discovery and development for cancer

The Agris Laboratory

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Research interests: Structure/function relationships of nucleic acids, RNA-targeted drug discovery, Novel RNA-based antimicrobial targets, Roles of modified nucleosides in tRNA, Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) of RNA, RNA-RNA and RNA-protein interactions

Moslehi Laboratory

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Dr. Moslehi is a genetic epidemiologist with expertise in designing family-based and population-based genetic epidemiologic investigations and in statistical analysis of genetic and epidemiologic data. The overall objectives of most of Dr. Moslehi's studies are to identify genetic factors involved in the etiology of human disorders and to quantify the effects of genetic and environmental factors on disease risk. Various malignant and pre-malignant conditions have been the focus of most of her research activities; however, Dr. Moslehi's research projects have also involved other complex disorders besides cancer. Dr. Moslehi has been studying cancer risks associated with DNA repair gene mutations for a number of years. In the past few years, she has also initiated several studies into the role of DNA repair and transcription genes in human reproduction and fetal development.

Fabris Laboratory

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Research interests: Using mass spectroscopy to investigate macromolecular complexes, protein-nucleic acid interactions in viruses, high-resolution mass spectrometry, and RNA-based drug therapeutics.

Derbyshire Lab

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Conjugation in mycobacteria. Mycobacterium tuberculosis accounts for more deaths worldwide than any other infectious agent. The development of new treatments for mycobacteria requires an understanding of the biology of these bacteria and the ability to manipulate their genomes to determine the genetic basis of pathogenesis and drug resistance. We are studying the process of DNA transfer by conjugation in the non-pathogenic species Mycobacterium smegmatis. In particular, we wish to identify the genes and DNA sequences required for DNA transfer and its regulation, as our current studies have shown that DNA transfer occurs by a novel mechanism. This research project will involve characterization of DNA transfer between strains of M. smegmatis and will involve a variety of molecular techniques including, transformation, electroporation, conjugation, cloning, DNA sequence analysis and transposon mutagenesis of mycobacteria and general bacterial genetics in E. coli.

The Curcio Laboratory

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There is no cure for diseases caused by retroviruses such as HIV-1, the infectious agent that has given rise to the human AIDS pandemic. Antiretroviral therapies can slow the progression of HIV/AIDS, but their usefulness is limited by their toxicity to human cells. The goal of our research is to identify highly specific targets for antiretroviral therapies by identifying replication mechanisms that are conserved among retroviruses and related endogenous retrotransposons but unnecessary for host cell replication or survival.

Canki Lab

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Our laboratory focuses on translational research of HIV-1 pathogenesis and mechanisms of virus inhibition by novel class of natural small molecules. We investigated a large number of natural products, and from Sargassum fusiforme we isolated and identified several new inhibitors that block virus during different stages of its replication life cycle. Palmitic acid, which binds to the CD4 receptor and blocks gp120-to-CD4 fusion and HIV-1 entry and infection, is being investigated in preclinical studies towards a microbicide application. Several other molecules are being studied to determine their activity and mechanisms of action.

Belfort Lab

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Our research explores the dynamics of elements that interrupt genes, introns and inteins. We study their basic properties of structure, function and regulation, and their applications in biotechnology and infectious disease.

Stewart Lab

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My research program combines bioinformatic and molecular evolutionary methods to study the evolution of mammalian genes and genomes, with an emphasis on the primates. Our current projects include: (1) identifying genetic changes unique to the human and chimpanzee lineages; (2) understanding the genetic basis of SIV/HIV resistance in certain African primate species; and (3) studying the evolution of the lysozyme multigene family in the mammals, especially as related to fertilization. At present, our research is primarily computational.

Parasitology Laboratory

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The parasite Trypanosoma brucei is a blood-borne pathogen that causes both human and zoonotic disease. T. brucei and related trypanosomatids are early eukaryotes and successful pathogens. Currently no preventative therapies are available and treatment is difficult, despite our knowledge of several unique biological processes with the potential to be exploited as drug targets. One such unusual process is RNA editing. RNA editing is found in many organisms including plants, yeast, humans and other mammals, although the mechanisms of editing are distinct. Within the trypanosomatids RNA editing is achieved by the insertion of non-encoded uridines or the deletion of encoded uridines. In the most extreme cases over 50% of the mature mRNA is the result of post-transcriptional editing. Editing takes place exclusively in the mitochondria, where it is required in order to generate mature mRNAs competent for translation into the correct proteins, and is carried out by a large ribonucleoprotein complex. Our work focuses on the biochemistry of editing by this multiprotein complex. We have identified a protein, RNA-Editing Associated Protein-1 (REAP-1), which specifically recognizes RNAs requiring editing. Evidence suggests that REAP-1 acts as a recruitment factor to deliver RNAs to the editing complex. REAP-1 is one of only two proteins that have been identified as components not of the core catalytic complex but of a larger (35-40S) complex believed to function in vivo. Through a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches, current work in the lab involves understanding how REAP-1 specifically recognizes and binds to its RNA targets, identifying other proteins with which REAP-1 interacts and determining how REAP-1 influences editing complex assembly and regulation of RNA editing.

Pager Lab

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The Pager lab is interested in the interaction and mechanisms by which RNA viruses subvert the cellular RNA metabolism pathways. We are particularly intrigued by how flaviviruses such as hepatitis C virus and Dengue virus commandeer the host’s mRNA storage and decay machinery to successfully establish an infection.

Rabi Musah Research Group

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The underlying theme of studies in the Musah research lab is in the mechanisms by which the redox versatility of sulfur is exploited by Nature to solve challenging issues in the chemical biology of plants and some viruses. The development of spectroscopic and mass spectrometric tools and methods that can be used to probe reactions involving organosulfur species are also of interest, as the tracking of organosulfur reaction intermediates presents unique challenges not often encountered with other elements.

McDonough Laboratory

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The focus of Dr. McDonough's laboratory is gene regulation in the context of bacterial pathogenesis, or the means by which bacteria cause disease. The team is primarily interested in two well-known pathogens: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, and Yersinia pestis, the etiologic agent of bubonic and pneumonic plague. The lab uses a variety of techniques in their studies with both pathogens, ranging from molecular genetics and biochemistry to bioinformatics, proteomics and fluorescence microscopy.

Multiplex Biotechnology Laboratory

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Our group is focused on development of multiplex biotechnologies based on nanotechnology and microfluidics, particularly barcode arrays, for disease diagnostics and forensic investigation. This unique lab also aims to apply the multiplex tools and employ principles in systems biology and physics to tackle the major challenges in immunology and cancer therapeutics, and to offer new perspectives of multi-scale biosystem development.