A Day in the Lab

By Casey Hulme '05

Photo by Adam Taylor

From uncovering the mystery behind how tumors form and grow to researching trends in tropical rainfall across the Southeast, UNC Asheville students in chemistry, biology, and atmospheric sciences are using their scholarships to conduct original research in the areas of cancer, antibiotics, climate change, and more.

Under the Microscope

In their quest to develop new antibiotics, North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Scholars in Assistant Professor of Chemistry Amanda Wolfe’s research team use novel species of bacteria from UNC Asheville’s Rhoades Garden to produce antibiotics with improved activity against Staphylococcus aureus and E coli.

As part of her cancer research with GlaxoSmithKline Professor of Molecular and Chemical Biology Ted Meigs’ team, scholar-athlete Katie Brown succeeded in splicing DNA to create a fusion protein molecule in order to test a portion of the protein for interaction with cancer-implicated proteins.

Sam Nance, also on Meigs’ team, has been making millions of copies of a gene to introduce specific changes to the DNA and see how this affects cells containing the altered gene.

Diving into Data

As a North Carolina native, senior atmospheric sciences major Chase Graham has been fascinated by the rainfall brought on by tropical storms and other weather events. Through NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings scholarship, Graham used satellite data to research tropical cyclone rainfall patterns over 1998-2012 across the southeast region of the U.S. and presented his findings at the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) headquarters in Washington D.C. in August 2017. He plans to continue his research in graduate school.

Atmospheric sciences major Carly Narotsky spent her summer using climate models to predict how the stratospheric polar vortex (the strong winds that encircle the Arctic and Antarctic at very high altitudes) will behave under climate change. While the results regarding the future strength of the vortex were inconclusive, her findings indicated the vortex could shift toward Northeast Asia, possibly creating colder winters in that region of the world.

Her biggest success? “Presenting the research at the American Meteorological Society meeting in January 2018. It was so exciting to be able to share my research with experts on my specific research topic.”

Beyond the Lab

NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Scholars Leah Bouthillette and Tess Handy are published in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters.

Several NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Scholars attended the 69th Southeastern Regional American Chemical Society Meeting in November 2017 in Charlotte, N.C. 

Jordan Hartig presented on her research with pestalone, a naturally-occurring antibiotic produced by marine fungus.

Handy presented on the antibiotic extraction of bacterial strains, and Sita Schussler presented on how she optimized conditions for isolating antibiotic compounds from bacteria.

Handy and Sarah Seaton also presented their antibiotics research at the 23rd annual Boston Bacterial Meeting in June 2017.

Courtney Quick and Makenzy Mull from Meigs’ ab presented their research at the annual Experimental Biology meeting, a gathering of molecular and biochemists with more than 14,000 attendees from around the world, in April 2018 in San Diego, Calif.