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Undergraduate Researchers

Brandon Young

Brandon Young, Biological Sciences

“The Functional Analyses of a Mutated Tentacle within the L4 Protein”

The 50S subunit of bacterial ribosomes, which conducts peptide bond formation at its peptidyl transferase center, contains an exit tunnel which nascent proteins must traverse to reach the cytoplasm to become functional proteins. The tentacle of the L4 ribosomal protein contributes to the structure of this exit tunnel. It has been shown that mutations within the tentacle of Escherichia coli L4 cause detrimental effects to the 50S subunit. In my research project, bioinformatic analyses were used to delineate the L4 tentacle in the following three microorganisms whose L4 proteins are orthologous to E. coli L4: Haemophilus influenzae, Bacillus subtilis, and Vibrio cholerae. This analysis resulted in identification of amino acid differences in organisms that are genetically similar to E. coli. Polymerase chain reactions (PCR) and site-directed mutagenesis have been used to introduce changes into the E. coli L4 protein. Then the function of ribosomes carrying this mutated L4 protein will be analyzed. Most of these mutations are expected to show little or no detrimental effects on ribosome assembly or function. However, mutations causing harmful effects will shed light on the role of specific amino acids in the L4 tentacle.

When and how did you find out that you could do independent research work as a UMBC undergraduate?

Well, coming to UMBC I knew that there were plenty of undergraduate research opportunities for interested students. All it was going to take was sifting through the opportunities and pursuing the ones that were extremely enticing. I began looking for research laboratories in my freshman year and eventually I found the perfect fit.

How did you find a mentor and decide on a project? How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

My principal investigator Dr. Janice Zengel has been one of my most influential mentors here at UMBC and it is thanks to her that my ambition was able to turn into actual research. When I first joined Dr. Zengel’s laboratory she helped me to develop my own project that I would be able to work on during my undergraduate research career. I currently work on this project independently with the guidance of Dr. Zengel.

How much time will you put into this research work?

I have and will continue to work on this project about 15 hours a week during the semester. Not to mention working in the lab during our winter break.

What academic background did you have before you started on this research?

I started working in this laboratory the second semester of my freshman year so my class background was just really some introductory science classes. However, I believe my excitement and ambition towards science really helped me to solidify my spot in this research laboratory.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

I believe that anything can be achieved through hard work and if you truly feel that getting involved in research is something that you want to do then you should pursue the opportunities that are offered. It is never too early to position yourself for an even better future.

What are your career goals?

I eventually plan on receiving my MD/PhD and I am particularly interested in the fields of cardiology and oncology.