Major: Chemical Engineering
“Characterization of High-Secretion A. nidulans Mutants through Chemical Genetic Profiling”
Filamentous fungi are widely used in the world of biotechnology. They are essential for the production of therapeutics, commodity chemicals and enzymes whose combined value is over $10 billion annually. One of the challenges related to fungal production of recombinant protein has been inconsistent protein secretion. For some products, expression and secretion can be as high as 100 g/L, yet for others these values are much lower. It is not clear why these differences exist. The overarching goal of this project is to gain insight regarding these differences in protein secretion. As an initial step toward this goal, we have generated 700 highly branched, Temperature-sensitive (Ts) mutants of the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans. The next stage of our project involves screening these mutants for increased protein secretion. Our team has determined that 125 mutants show increased protein secretion capacity. Using these high-secreting mutants, we will develop a phenotypic profile for each strain through chemical genetic profiling. After analyzing the results of this profiling protocol, we will select 25 of the most phenotypically diverse mutants for genomic sequencing. These mutants will help us to better understand the genomic causes for the aberrant phenotype and resultant high protein secretion.
How did you find your mentor for your research project?
During Spring 2013, I checked in with my advisor, Dr. Bayles, and expressed interest in doing research. She knew that I was on the biotechnology track for chemical engineering so she suggested that I look into Dr. Marten’s lab, which mainly deals with fungal biology and industrial uses of filamentous fungi. Her guidance was essential in my placement in Dr. Marten’s lab.
When I met Dr. Marten, I demonstrated my enthusiasm for learning about research and he graciously allowed me into his lab. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with a team and I’ve been a part of his lab since June 2013.
Is this your first independent research project?
Yes, this is my first independent project. Although this URA project is technically independent, its success is reliant on not only me and Nicholas Rogers. Without our team of hardworking undergraduates, our project would never meet an end.
How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
Nicholas applied for the URA the previous year, in order to fund the preceding project. This project yielded products which are integral in our current project. When I joined MartenLab, Nicholas had told me about this program and we applied for it together.
What has been the hardest part about your research?
The hardest part of our research would be figuring out where something went wrong. Sometimes, finding a solution to a problem is easy to pinpoint but most of the time, it is incredibly difficult. However, when a problem is solved, it is satisfying to know that the project can continue.
What was the most unexpected thing?
The most unexpected thing about my research is the cohesiveness of our team. We are able to cooperate well with each other to move our project forward with minimal conflict. Their perspective and work on our project is essential.
What else are you involved in on campus?
I am the treasurer for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and a member of Hooplah. This summer, I worked as an Orientation Peer Advisor and a Welcome Week Woolie. Previously, I was the treasurer for the UMBC Wushu and Tai-Chi Club.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Seek out research opportunities and keep a positive attitude. Browse departmental profiles, email advisors and talk to professors, all under the assumption that a lab position is attainable. I certainly would not have the chance to work in a lab if I didn’t believe I could and if I simply stayed in my room. By taking the initiative, my fate in research was not left to chance and I was able to be involved with a field I never considered before.