Since the summer of 2014, I have been working the Bishop Group led by Dr. Barney Bishop. The group is working on finding cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) from serum in order to find alternatives to traditional antibiotics due to the increasing number of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
To find CAMPs, hydrogel particles are used to harvest the serum of reptiles and other animals. These particles contain an outer layer that has an affinity towards positively charged peptides (cations). Initially, I began synthesizing monomers under the direction of Dr. Yaling Zhu for use on the outer layer of the particles.
Currently, my research is continuing along those lines but with an additional component. One of the monomers that has been being used is methacrylic-6-aminohexanoic acid (MA6ACA). I am currently attempting to add an additional organic molecule, 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid (C2H7NO3S), to the end of the MA6ACA. In order to do this, the carboxylic end of the MA6ACA needs to be functionalized using an acyl substitution reaction. Once this is done, the C2H7NO3S can be added.
After completing this, the new monomer will be used to create the outer layer of the hydrogel particles and serum will be harvested. The results will be analyzed using mass spectrometry to find if there is an additional benefit in finding CAMPs.
I plan on pursuing a PhD in materials science and performing this research has shown me what that will entail in regards to giving presentations on my research and figuring out how to deal with issues when a reaction does not go as planned. I say that because the first two reactions I performed this semester both failed and figuring out why and how to correct it proved to be more difficult than I had initially expected.